I've admired Kris' work for many years and had the pleasure of meeting her in person last April when I visited Brooklyn. I interviewed Kris about her newest project earlier this week.
Joanna: Tell us a little bit about the Goddess Tarot. I know it's a bestseller at over 200,000 copies sold. How is it different from the Rider Waite Smith Tarot, and from other Goddess-themed decks like Motherpeace?
Kris: The Goddess Tarot actually bears similarities to both of those decks. Like the Motherpeace, it's a gentle deck oriented around women and their mythic history. The major and minor arcanas of The Goddess Tarot are structured like the Rider Waite Smith. My reason for doing this was because I wanted The Goddess Tarot to be easily accessible to people already familiar with the tarot. Rightly or wrongly, the Rider Waite Smith is considered the "default" when it comes to tarot structure; after all, it is the most popular deck in the world.
That written, The Goddess Tarot differs in that it brings individual goddesses directly to the forefront, most especially in the major arcana. The art style is more illustrative and classical in tone than the Motherpeace, which seems more symbolic to me.
Joanna: Last night in my Tarot Meetup group, the topic was the Hierophant. Each person brings her or his choice of deck to the Meetup, and we compare the card of the night from many different decks. Two women had your deck last night, and we discussed your choice for the Hierophant card as Tradition (Juno). Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose Juno for that card?
Kris: Simple as this may sound, it made perfect sense to me. After all, Juno is the Roman ruling goddess. As such, she ruled over ever aspect of women's lives — from birth to death — and was directly featured and honored in their rituals. I don't know about you, but when I learned in grade school about the Greco-Roman mythology, there was a tendency to downplay female sovereign goddesses (such as Juno) as consorts to rulers. I hope that featuring Juno in this manner rebalances things a bit.
Joanna: I don't own an iPhone or an iPod Touch although I am seriously considering buying an iPod Touch just to get your app! Can you describe how someone would consult the Goddess Tarot using the app to me? Or would that be too much like blind men describing an elephant?
Kris: It's fairly similar to an online tarot reading site, only on a *much* smaller canvas — the size for an iPhone apps is 2 x 3". The app's home screen offers the choice of four readings. Once you choose a reading, another screen prompts you to shuffle the cards and deals them, only it's all done virtually on your device's screen. Once the cards are "dealt" in a reading layout, you can examine individual cards in greater detail by tapping them. The app also allows you to save a screen shot of any multi-card reading for future reference.
Joanna: Can you tell us about the "Goddess Circle" spread that's included with the app?
Kris: I wanted to include a custom reading spread to make The Goddess Tarot app special. Since so many tarot spreads are oriented around "real world" results, I decided to create a spread that would examine the underlaying resources surrounding a query; that could go deeper in a psychological and meditative manner. Ultimately the "Goddess Circle" is about taking stock of our gifts and talents from a higher place.
Joanna: Why did you decide to do an app for the Goddess Tarot?
Kris: I'm interested in all forms of publishing, whether they be electronic or print. Accordingly, publishing an iPhone app seemed a logical next step. From a creative standpoint, it's a very exciting format that allows you to present your art in a new way to a large audience — I've heard there's over 20 million iPhone users.
From a professional standpoint, I've been packaging my books and decks for some years now. (By packaging, I mean providing publishers with the design, art, and text ready for reproduction.) For the most part, I have chosen not to self-publish my print publications because of the distribution conundrum; it's tremendously hard to get publications into retail stores. However, iPhone apps are only distributed in one place, the App Store. This makes distribution considerably easier for artists.
Once I decided to publish an iPhone app, it made the most sense to feature The Goddess Tarot since it is so popular. I love the idea of updating it for the digital age!
Joanna: I'm very curious about the process for creating the app. I know you did all the design work yourself, then paid a developer to do the programming. Can you tell us a little bit about the process for each of those steps?
Kris: The first, and probably most important, step is to create something called a use case spec (or developers spec). This is the document that serves as the road map for your iPhone app — it illustrates how your app works and the graphics involved. Once you have your spec, you can use it to interview and hire developers. For more details on iPhone app creation, I was interviewed about the process of creating an app here.
Sometimes developers will offer to work with an artist on an app in exchange for rights and profit sharing. Though this is a viable solution — app development can be very expensive — I ultimately decided that I wanted creative control, to ensure quality.
Joanna: How long did it take you to create the app, and how long did it take the developers?
Kris: Creating The Goddess Tarot app was a lot of work! That written, once the wheels were set in motion, the process moved quickly especially if you compare it to traditional print publishing. From start to finish, The Goddess Tarot app took almost three months to get into Apple's App Store. This was broken down as so:
6 weeks for me to create my use case spec, prepare graphics and text, and find a developer to work with;
1 month for the developer to program and test the app;
2 weeks for Apple to approve the app.
This is very different from traditional print publishing, where it takes about nine months *after* you complete a book to it being ready for sale in your local book store. (Self-publishing is faster, but that's a subject for a whole other post.)
Joanna: Do you have any advice for other Tarot deck creators who might like to make their own iPhone app?
Kris: Research, research, research! Take the time to make the best use case spec you possibly can. That makes it much easier for a developer to work with you. Also, look at similar apps on the market to see what you can do better. Take time to read Apple's Human Interface Guidelines (or HIG for short) — it contains useful information about designing for the iPhone.
Joanna: Do you have plans to do more apps, with more of your decks?
Kris: Absolutely. The next one I'm planning is for the Lover's Path Tarot. I'd also like to make other apps which are more game-oriented. I've been fantasizing about creating a Doomed Queens app, where the player can rewrite history. You can choose to be Marie Antoinette or Anne Boleyn — but this time, you can take action to keep your head from rolling.
Thanks Kris. Love the idea of rewriting history with a Doomed Queens app! Now I think I better go shopping at the Apple Store for an iPod Touch . . .
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