Joseph Gordon-Levitt is best known for bringing life to large stories on the big screen in films such as "(500) Days of Summer," "Inception" and, most recently, "50/50." But now, the actor has his eyes set on something smaller -- tiny, actually.

Gordon-Levitt is entering the publishing world via his online production company hitRECord. The site is collaborating with It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, on "The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories" ($14.99).

A three-book series is planned, with the first volume just released. Each volume is a collection of brief stories and illustrations submitted by users of the site. With collaboration at the forefront, users are encouraged to build on one another's work (in what Gordon-Levitt refers to as "remixing").

The first volume -- tiny in appearance at 4 by 6 inches -- features 60 contributions from more than 8,000 submissions. We spoke with the actor about his foray into publishing. The following is an excerpt from that conversation.

 

This is sort of an interesting endeavor -- are you considered the author of it all; your name is on the cover? And did you ever think "author" would be one of your titles?

Uh, you know, I was a cocky kid, so yeah, I thought "author" would someday be a possibility. We went back and forth a lot of what exactly to call me. This book was created in quite an unconventional way. I wouldn't exactly call myself the author of it. I tend to call myself the director. This book is the result of a collaboration that 8,000-some people contributed to. I was definitely directing it. I edited lots of the stories, and I curated them -- with the help of many others -- into this book. But it certainly wasn't just me writing and illustrating.

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So how did you go about selecting which ones would be featured in this collection?

Oh my, it was certainly a lot of work. But I didn't do it alone. I'll admit, I didn't look at all 8,000 contributions. The website sort of tracks who's recommending which story and who is remixing which one. If a certain story or certain illustration is getting a lot of feedback -- or gets a lot of remixes -- stuff pops out. But it's not democratic. It's not like I'm counting votes. If there's something that got a lot of recommendations that I don't like, it's not going to go into the book. It is definitely very much my personal taste.

 

Does one story or illustration stand out from all the others as your favorite?

I have lots of favorites. The Tiny Stories do tend to fall into two camps; some of them have a real punch line. When you read them live, they get a laugh. There's one -- I don't know it by heart -- but it's about this orange that jumps off a kitchen counter and runs out the door and escapes its fate. Then, there's this egg that sees the orange and tries to do the same -- but what it sort of points to is that an egg would have a lot less success jumping off a kitchen counter. It's really cleverly worded such that it gets a laugh at the end. And the illustration is great, showing this confident egg about to make its triumphant leap. You can see the orange running through door in the background, and you can see the frying pan, too -- what the egg is trying to escape.

But then there's also stories that don't have such a zinger at the end; they're more whimsical and invite you to bring meaning to them.

 

All of the illustrations are in black and white. Was there a reason you opted against incorporating color?

We talked about making it color. Maybe for Volume 2 or Volume 3, but I have to say, I do love black-and-white drawings. It reminds me of the drawings I used to see when I read, like, "Charlotte's Web" when I was a kid or "The Mouse and the Motorcycle."