Interview: Ellen of The Sunsette Erotica App

Everyone who knows my work will know that I LOVE erotica. I think we should all read – and write – more of it. So when Ellen, creator of the new erotica app The Sunsette, got in touch with me, I just had to interview her for the blog.

I hope you enjoy – and, of course, I hope you all get the app when it comes out. Here’s my interview with Ellen.

The logo of The Sunsette erotica app

Tell us a bit about you and the work you do?

I work and live in Portland ME. I’m a certified functional medicine coach and also work for a local publisher in Portland in addition to my work building Sunsette. At Sunsette I run the “front end”, while my boyfriend, who has a business degree, runs the “back end”. We are also working with several partners across web development and design to bring the project to fruition.

What made you want to set up an erotica app?

We saw a few things that caught our attention in this space: the general lack of high-quality erotica in mobile app form, the changing public preferences with respect to content that is empowering rather than demeaning, and our own research that suggested that many people are seeking new forms of adult entertainment.

How is your product different from other erotica platforms on the market?

Erotica apps currently available on the app stores are either aesthetically unpleasant or feature demeaning and even violent content.  Further, we gamify it bit by delivering stories at sunset Sunday-Wednesday each week with a countdown feature that builds anticipation. This, in addition to a shorter 10-15 minute read time on average, right-sizes the reading experience to the duration people generally view pornography (which we view ourselves as an alternative to) as opposed to the longer form literature out there where people have to skip around to find the good bits. Finally, our curation is really what sets us apart. We’re featuring the best work of the best authors out there, carefully selected for diverse plotlines, categories, even kinkiness levels!

Tell us a bit more about the development process for the app?

We needed to make sure we were building features that people actually want, so we did a number of targeted surveys to gather as much data as possible. The survey responses we get are invaluable, and the app itself has gone through (and will continue to go through) multiple iterations as the feedback continues to come in. Potential users can still take this survey.

If authors want to get involved with writing for you, how can they do so?

Authors can submit here.

Who’s your favourite erotica author and why?

Different authors have different strengths – that’s the benefit of working with a talented group like our Sunsette Authors. We have a high bar for quality writing, so if an author is approved it means we’ve read a lot of their writing and have a lot of respect for their work. They become part of the family.

Do you write erotic fiction yourself, or just enjoy reading it?

I’m a pretty big reader in general, so I stick to my lane! It helps me see our product from the user (reader) perspective really well. That said, I do have a publishing background so I’ve learned to look at writing with more of a critical eye as not only a copyeditor but a curator of broader themes across stories.

When and where will the app be available? How much will  it cost?

The app will be available to download from both the Apple and Google Play app stores for a monthly subscription of $3.99. We’re hoping to launch in December, pending App Store approval. Our up-to-date news on that front will be posted on our website, where you can subscribe to our newsletter and get an alert once we go live.

Do you think reading and enjoying erotica is still stigmatised? If so, why?

It appears to have become less so over time, at least in America, but at the same time people still want privacy – especially when you’re talking about erotica versus romance (the latter being a bit less spicy). An app on a mobile phone is a nice way to package this content discreetly, because there is no physical book laying about, no web page lurking behind your browser window when you’re making a presentation at work. Overall, it’s amazing to see how the culture towards sex has shifted in a progressive direction in the midst of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon and the #MeToo movement, and we’re really excited to play a part in that.

Who inspires you personally and professionally?

Besides our creative and talented authors, I’d add Bill & Melinda Gates, Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Ellen Degeneres, Sam Harris,  Elon Musk, Brene Brown… And some of our favorites in sex tech are the people at Dame Products, MindBodyGreen, Unbound and OMGYes. Lots of people doing really great things for the world in different ways both within and outside of sex tech.

What’s something you used to believe about sex or relationships that you don’t believe any more?

I grew up with a fairly open mind, and that hasn’t changed much. As I’ve gotten older and interacted with mainstream online porn more, I think that feelings of guilt during or after viewing have bothered me increasingly – and at the same time I’ve grown a bit desensitized to it, which also bothers me when I consider it. So that growing awareness has reinforced my interest in creating an alternative for people, something that engages imaginations more and ultimately is more arousing for many people. That’s why our tagline at Sunsette is “No Guilt. Just Pleasure.” and I think that sums it up pretty well. I’m happy to say Sunsette has really hit that spot for me, so to speak, and I hope others out there will agree once we launch.

And just for fun because it is Coffee & Kink – do you like coffee? How do you take it?

I love coffee! I take it with cream and a few drops of maple syrup. You didn’t ask for my kink, but while I’m at it… well, download the app and you’ll get all kinds of good examples!

Thanks so much to Ellen for kindly agreeing to be interviewed. Check out The Sunsette for all the latest news.