“We Both Like to Cuddle” an Interview with Stephen Elliott

In October of 2010, Stephen Elliott launched an iPad app for his memoir, “The Adderall Diaries,” originally published by Graywolf Press.  In a post on the website he runs, The Rumpus, he discussed why he wanted to create an app for the book.  That post got me intrigued, and I wanted to know more about his goals and decisions behind building the app. Here’s what he said:

Interview Questions

RN: What inspired you to create the app?

SE: The book was coming out in electronic format either way. I didn’t like the ibook or kindle version. They weren’t doing anything with the format. Their was no discussion board, for example.

RN: What role did you play in creating it?  Did you provide guidance for formatting the story, developing additional content, adding features?

SE: I played a pretty large role in creating it. Electric Literature had already developed a great reader, but I was pretty heavily involved in how it’s put together.

RN: “The Adderall Diaries” app has some pretty unique features: the discussion board, book tour diaries, video interview.  How do you feel these features enhance the reading experience?

SE: It’s all extras. What’s important is that the book maintain it’s integrity. You don’t do something the author didn’t intend. For example, you don’t add video on a page that didn’t have video in the original publication.

RN: In the article you wrote on The Rumpus, you said you don’t like the way ebooks are packaged.  What don’t you like?   Are you satisfied that the features you developed for the app improved upon these deficiencies in eBooks?

SE: They don’t have covers, or chat rooms, or news feeds. All of which are easily available. You can tell the people producing ebooks are not authors, or even readers. They’re business people.

RN: In the future, if you were writing a book—story, narrative, whatever you like—that you knew would be distributed via both print and digital format, would you write and create the book in a different way to optimize it for both mediums?

SE: I don’t imagine taking something like that into account. If I was an intentional writer who chased a market, well, I’d just be a different person.

RN: Did developing this app make you want you to create work to be distributed and consumed specifically in a digital medium? If so, do you want to learn any new skills or software to achieve that goal?

SE: That’s just not the way I think. I already have an email list and I send out an email that’s basically creative non-fiction five days a week. It’s called The Daily Rumpus, you can subscribe here: http://www.therumpus.net/subscribe

RN: Did developing this app in any way change your perception of how literature should be created, distributed, and consumed?

SE: You have to meet the reader where they are. Anybody that’s reading your work is doing you a favor and you should just strive to create their favorite book, the book that you would want to read.

RN: There’s sort of a print book, app, and eBook conundrum:  how do you coordinate the distribution of a narrative in any or all of these formats?  Should a reader buy all three?  Only one? Should an app or eBook provide a wholly different experience than the printed book?

SE: No. The app or ebook should provide tools to help enjoy the book, like community, but they shouldn’t change the book. There’s a lot of platforms and going forward some people will read on tablets and some people will read on phones and some people will read on paper and some people will just listen to books in their car. The book remains the book.

I don’t care if people buy my books, I just want them to read the book.

RN: What is your overall view of the intersection of literature and technology?

SE: I was going to make some analogy to sex here. Where if you’re into something and I’m into something, then we intersect and we can do that thing that we’re both into. And if I’m into something you’re not into, but we both like to cuddle, we can still do that.

Download the App.

Order the book.

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About Andrew Lewellen
Devoted Father. Helpful Husband. Dedicated Writer. Faithful Dog-Walker.

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