Below is an interview that Michael Andersen conducted with Sean Stewart regarding the release of the Cathy’s Book app for the iPhone. In addition to co-authoring the transmedia storytelling experiment Cathy’s Book, Stewart worked on ARGs including The Beast, i love bees, Last Call Poker and Year Zero.
MA: How did you and Jordan come up with the idea for Cathy’s Book?
SS: It was Jordan’s idea (things often are). After the Beast we were talking about how fun it was, but how frustrating it was, too, that it was over: even if someone heard about how cool it was, they couldn’t DO it. “Hey! You’re a book guy,” Jordan said. “We should do a book using the same kind of techniques!”
So we did.
We came up with the broad outlines of the story together. We figured YA was a good place to start, and, to be honest, having written a fair number of somewhat dark sf/f novels, I wanted to write a book I thought my teenage daughters might like. (They have a cameo in the first novel which Sharp Eyed Readers may spot…)
MA: How would you compare the writing process you used for Cathy’s Book, as opposed to what you used for traditional novels like Perfect Circle or full-blown ARGs like The Beast?
SS: We determined that the thing HAD to work as a book, first and foremost; if you never did any of the ancillary material, you still had to have an enjoyable, satisfying experience. So I wrote Cathy’s story, if you will, much as I would a regular book.
We used the extra material to fill out the life of Cathy’s love-interest, Victor. Readers looking through the extra evidence can eventually work out almost every detail of the Many Lives of Victor, from gold camp ragamuffin to WWI flying ace to mobster, and so forth.
Trying to fit together the various pieces of evidence was much more like the storytelling method of The Beast. Over time, we also changed how we did that. Cathy’s Book, like the Beast, has a ton of little pieces of stuff for players to link together. In Cathy’s Key and Cathy’s Ring we moved increasingly to building “interactive arcs,” so that a reader might, for instance, send an email and go through a 3 or 4-step investigation to arrive at a satisfying endpoint.