Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guests Johnathan McClain and J A Huss authors of the four-part series Sin with Me which the first of the series will be released on March 6th, 2018 and the next books in the series will continue to be released on a three week roll out to essentially allow the reader to “binge read” as the books have major cliffhangers for an exciting and suspenseful read.
Johnathan McClain's career as a writer and actor spans 25 years and covers the worlds of theatre, film, and television. Johnathan has appeared in Off-Broadway in the original cast of Jonathan Tolins’ The Last Sunday In June at The Century Center, as well as at Lincoln Center Theatre and with the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab.
Around the country, he has been seen on stage at South Coast Repertory, The American Conservatory Theatre, Florida Stage, Paper Mill Playhouse, and the National Jewish Theatre. Los Angeles stage credits are numerous and include the LA Weekly Award nominated world premiere of Cold/Tender at The Theatre @ Boston Court and the LA Times’ Critic’s Choice production of The Glass Menagerie at The Colony Theatre for which Johnathan received a Garland Award for his portrayal of Jim O’Connor.
On television, he appeared in a notable turn as Megan Draper’s LA agent, Alan Silver, on the final season of AMC’s critically acclaimed drama Mad Men, and as the lead of the TV Land comedy series, Retired at 35, starring alongside Hollywood icons George Segal and Jessica Walter.
He has also had Series Regular roles on The Bad Girl’s Guide starring Jenny McCarthy and Jessica Simpson’s sitcom pilot for ABC. His additional television work includes recurring roles on the CBS drama SEAL TEAM and Fox’s long-running 24, as well as appearances on Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS: Los Angeles, Trial and Error, The Exorcist, Major Crimes, The Glades, Scoundrels, Medium, CSI, Law & Order: SVU, Without a Trace, CSI: Miami, and Happy Family with John Larroquette and Christine Baranski, amongst others. On film, he appeared in the Academy Award nominated Far from Heaven and several independent features.
As an audiobook narrator, he has recorded almost 100 titles.
JA Huss never wanted to be a writer and she still dreams of that elusive career as an astronaut. She originally went to school to become an equine veterinarian but soon figured out they keep horrible hours and decided to go to grad school instead. That Ph.D wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, so she dropped out and got a M.S. in forensic toxicology just to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible.
After graduation she got a job with the state of Colorado as their one and only hog farm inspector and spent her days wandering the Eastern Plains spending time with farmers. After a few years of that, she got bored. And since she was a homeschool mom and actually does love science, she decided to write science textbooks and make online classes for other homeschool moms. She wrote more than two hundred of those workbooks and was the number one publisher at the online homeschool store many times, but eventually she covered every science topic she could think of and decided to pursue other writing topics.
In 2012, she decided to write fiction instead. That year she released her first three books and started a career that would make her a New York Times bestseller and land her on the USA Today Bestseller’s List eighteen times in the next three years.
Her books have sold millions of copies all over the world, the audio version of her semi-autobiographical book, Eighteen, was nominated for an Audie award in 2016, and her audiobook Mr. Perfect was nominated for a Voice Arts Award in 2017.
Johnathan McClain is her first (and only) writing partner with their The Original Sin.
Norm: Good day Johnathan and JA thanks for participating in our interview.
What has been your greatest challenges (professionally) that both of you have overcome in getting to where you are at today
JA - In the beginning, like when I first started writing fiction, I think it was discoverability. I think that’s true for all new writers, and even though I think I was “discovered” pretty quickly, it was still THE major hurdle to get over. These days I think it’s staying fresh. Never writing the same book twice, for instance. Always thinking up new ideas or new ways to spin a trope, or, at the very least, tell an old story in a new way.
Johnathan – Simply put: Odds. There’s no dearth of actors/writers in the world, and the sheer number of variables that can sidetrack a career, or even prevent one, are innumerable. So, remaining driven and staying in the game to allow the odds to even out is, perhaps, the greatest challenge for any artist in any discipline if what they want is to make a real go of it. There are those who manage to find their audience quickly, but for the rest of us, it’s a marathon not a sprint.
Norm: What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your careers?
JA - I think having fourteen USA Today Bestsellers is my biggest success. Most people would probably think making New York Times was a bigger deal, but I’ve been on the USA Today bestseller list a total of eighteen times. So, I think my consistency is my greatest success so far.
Johnathan – I’ve been working as an actor and writer for over 25 years and I’m still doing it. Every day that I wake up and get to keep doing it feels like a success.
Norm: How did you decide to get together and write Sin with Me? As a follow up, where did you get your information or ideas for the series?
Johnathan – After hearing an audiobook that I narrated, Julie asked her audiobook publisher to track me down and hire me to narrate a couple of her books. They did, I did, and then she and I connected online to share thanks and praise, after which I narrated a compendium of hers that seemed to me to be tailor-made for a TV series, and so I reached out and asked if she would be up for trying to adapt it. She was indeed up for it, we did adapt it, that went well, we got into a development deal with a studio on that project, and on the heels of that Julie called and asked if I’d have any interest in writing novels with her. I said, “I thought you’d never ask.” And now we are.
The idea for this series actually came from the germ of an idea that I had kicked around several years ago as a possible TV series. It never came to fruition, but I never stopped thinking about it and so I pitched it to Julie and she got on board with it. We unpacked the story together and built up the new plot that is the engine for this series.
Norm: Could you tell us a little about the series?
JA - The Original Sin series is four books total. Each book will release three weeks apart starting on March 6, 2018. It’s kind of a new take on an old trope, but we can’t tell you the trope since it’s a spoiler. :) The story is set in Las Vegas and revolves around Tyler, a war vet dealing with a lot of pent-up guilt and regrets, and Maddie, a girl who can’t seem to make any positive progress in her life, despite years of working hard. It’s a sexy, suspenseful, and romantic story that will surprise and delight readers as they move through the books and learn more about what’s really happening.
Norm: In your opinion, what was the most difficult part of the writing of the series and how did you go about collaborating?
JA - For me it was adjusting from a solo career to a collaborative one. It was challenging at times because I’m so used to doing everything alone. We basically came up with the premise together and just sorta jumped in right away. Johnathan started the book with a Tyler chapter, then he’d hand it to me and I’d do a Maddie chapter, then I’d hand it back and so on and so forth. Some parts of it we just kinda made up as we went, others were plotted out pretty carefully.
Johnathan – Honestly, the challenging part is that we’re actually collaborating. I’ve written with people before, but often that means that one person does most of the work and then both people’s names go on it. Or it’s two people working individually and then combining the efforts at the end.
Julie and I are genuinely, honestly writing together. Weighing in. Sharing a narrative voice. Contributing to each other’s process. And, you know, we’re both strong-willed people who’ve made successful individual careers, and now we’re blending what has worked for us individually into a joint venture. That requires a lot of patience and flexibility. And truthfully, Julie’s better at that than I am, I think. One might believe it’s the other way around, since I have a lot of collaborative experience and Julie’s been a solo artist before now, but she’s been almost preternaturally good at taking on someone like me who can be vocal and determined in the ways that I can be. And we plan on working together for a while, so I imagine we’ll continue learning and compromising as the partnership grows.
Norm: Are the characters in your series based on people you know or have encountered or are they strictly fictional?
JA – None of the characters are based on any one I know.
Johnathan – Every character I create is one-third me, one-third people I know or have met, and one-third people I kind of make-up. So, yeah, is the answer. I’ll leave it to readers to suss out which portion is which.
Norm: It is said that writers should write what they know. Were there any elements of the series that forced you to step out of your comfort zone, and if so, how did you approach this part of the writing?
JA - It’s funny, because before we started writing the series I really thought that writing sex scenes with a man would be the most challenging thing for me. But it turns out, collaboration has been what I’ve worked on the most. The sex scenes were a little weird at first but that went away pretty fast. Writing sex scenes isn’t anything like reading sex scenes. So… :) But learning to work with another writer on the same story was a lot harder.
Johnathan – I was also a little suspicious about what it would be like writing the sex stuff. Not because of the sex writing itself. I’ll say anything. I am preposterously un-prudish. And Julie and I had a great and frank conversation early on that allowed us both to feel comfortable. But I was unsure about how I would work it into the narrative in honest and sincere ways and not have it feel tacked on. Could I make it organic, in other words? Not once or twice (that’s easy) but every time I wrote one. And then Julie said something that changed everything: “Sex scenes are never about the sex. They’re about the people. And the feelings.” And once I heard that I was like, “Got it. Done.” And it’s been great ever since.
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing your series and what was it?
JA – I think Johnathan has taught me more about writing internal monologue in the past few months since we’ve been writing together than I could’ve learned in a lifetime. His author voice is wonderfully expressive and fresh, so it was a pleasure to read his words when he sent them back. It made me think harder about my own word choices.
Johnathan – Julie has taught me how to stretch the boundaries of what a genre of fiction will allow and still stay inside the lines. Because romance is genre fiction, of course. There are certain rules one needs to obey for it to work, but (and it’s one of the things I most admire in her writing) Julie knows how to dance right along the jagged edge without falling off. (It doesn’t mean I don’t still try and drag us over the lip from time to time, but she’s very good about hauling us back into the green zone.)
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in the series, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
JA - I think we set out to write romance with a fresh perspective—namely, one with a true male point of view—and we definitely did that. No question.
Johnathan – What Julie said.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Johnathan and JA – We both feel like every minute of every day of our lives bleeds into every syllable we write. We’re very different people with different backgrounds and vastly different human experiences, but however it happened, those journeys have led us to have very similar worldviews. And for what we’re doing now, we feel like that’s what matters most.
Norm: Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be?
JA - I think that depends on the writer. I don’t think every writer writes for the same reasons and that question has a lot of different answers.
Johnathan – I agree with Julie, but for me: Yeah. I feel that I owe something. That said... What I feel I owe is the most honest voice I can summon and the most authentic story I am capable of telling. I think when you forfeit your sincere artistic intentions in favor of trying to “please the audience” you are actually betraying the very audience you are trying to please. Because no successful author I know became successful by pandering. They became successful by serving their own vision. They stay successful by standing by that vision. And to subsume that vision for the purpose of selling books is cynical and bloodless. So, I think that writers owe their readers bold and unvarnished truth in their writing.
Norm: How can our readers find out more about you and Sin With Me?
Johnathan and JA: They can check out our WEBSITE find us on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the links below.
Chat with Johnathan
Chat with Julie
Norm: What is next for both of you?
JA - Writing the next book in this series, then starting a new sexy series. After that we have a couple of standalone books planned. In between we might be writing a TV pilot.
Johnathan – Everything Julie said, and I’ll also be popping up in a few TV shows and movies.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your series, but nobody has?
Johnathan and JA – Nobody ever asks about the risks! We take! With punctuation, And ... that feels like: A crime??
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors