She’s a forensic toxicologist turned best-selling romance author. He’s a veteran actor and screenwriter turned audiobook narrator and romance author. Sounds like the beginning of a classic fiction novel, right? But authors J.A. Huss and Johnathan McClain have turned their backgrounds into books— a series— and they’ve just released the first book in their brand new Original Sin Series (Science Future Press). While this series will be an instant hit with fans of romance Huss and McClain are introducing something a bit different for those who love to read serials. Instead of waiting months, or even years for the next book in the series, they’re releasing the next book just three weeks after the release of the first. This means that by the end of the month, an Original Sin book will be released. Readers will be able to binge-read this series like a favorite Netflix show.
BookTrib got to talk the authors about their collaboration, writing romance and becoming their characters and whether or not they will continue to write together at the completion of the series.
BookTrib: Sin with Me is a collaborative effort. How did you two meet and decide to write a book together?
Johnathan: I’m an actor first, before my concurrent writing career, and I had fallen into narrating audio-books. I wound up doing one that Julie had listened to and when it came time to record some of her books, she asked her audio-book publisher to find me. It’s very easy to love someone who loves you first and it was very flattering to be requested! It was just a real delight. I think Julie is a really good writer and it was really pleasant to interpret her work, because you never know what you’re going to get when someone asks you to do something like that.
I reached out to her, and we just sort of had this mutual, online fan-club and it occurred to me that one of Julie’s book series would be good for a TV show. Because I work in television and have sold TV shows in the past, I asked her if she would be open to that happening. So we actually started writing together because we adapted one of her series into a television show; we’re in the middle of putting that deal together with MGM Television right now. I’ll let Julie answer what made her think it was a good idea to write with me more than that!
Julie: I thought it was a good idea because you [Johnathan] sent me that sample scene, when we first started writing ‘The Company‘ as a script and I just immediately knew that you were a great writer. A lot of other people have asked me to collaborate with them, but I’m not really a team player so I’ve always turned them down. But I thought that if I was going to collaborate with anybody, it’s going to be Johnathan. So we just took a leap of faith and started writing books together.
BookTrib: Julie, you mentioned that you aren’t a team player, which makes me curious about what the collaborative writing process was like!
Julie: It’s funny, because if you look at me and Johnathan, we’re just completely different. But I think we’re also the same is some ways; we’re a little bit opinionated, we have strong personalities. Everyone has their days when they have problems, but for the most part it wasn’t really hard to adapt, early on. Every day you have to go into it thinking that you’re part of a team and both of you matter, that it’s an equal 50/50 partnership. So I can’t get my way all the time and he can’t get his way all the time, and that’s just how it is!
Johnathan: Julie says she’s not a team player, and ….maybe. But she is with me. She said something that stuck with me early on. I said something like, “Thank you for not yelling at me” and she said, “Well, look, yelling is always an option, it’s just almost never the right option.” And that really stuck with me. So maybe she’s not a team player in general, but she has been surprisingly patient with me. Particularly given the fact that she’s written alone for so long. It’s really incredible how adaptable she is.
BookTrib: Now, the Original Sin series is four books that are being released every three weeks. Why did you chose to write in that format?
Julie: Well, there’s an underlying current of what it takes to rise to the top over at Amazon, so a part of this was based on how to do that; it is partly a marketing plan. But we also really wanted to write cliffhangers and that makes some readers angry. Romance readers read a lot and they’re very particular. We wanted to write a long story so that we could get a lot of characterization and world-building in, and we can’t do that do that with one book. We also wanted to take advantage of the fact that romance readers are voracious; so we settled on this three week schedule.
Johnathan: I would also say on the creative side, there are a bunch of different versions of the story that we’re telling. There’s the introspective, exploratory, ‘these people finding themselves’ version of the story; there’s the traditional, meet-cute and they fall in love version; there’s the adventure version, and what we are doing is writing all of those.Stylistically, it’s four different books on some level, just all woven together as a total cohesive package, and I don’t know if we’ve ever really seen anything like that before.
BookTrib: What was it like going back in after finishing one book and switching up the genre with each narrative?
Johnathan: We’re now three-quarters of the way through and actually, I was thinking about this yesterday as I was working, but when you’re going to tell one story across four books, you can really take your time. But now we’re at the point where things are starting to move fast and it’s really cool and really fun, after sort of just… indulging in these characters. By the time you get to the high, peak-action stuff – and I’m sure you feel this way too, Julie – I now just understand them so well, because we’ve taken the time to learn them, and live an entire life with them. So hopefully now the highs are higher, the lows are lower and the heart is just there.
Julie: Definitely. Because I like to write long series, and I try – it’s not easy to write a continuing story like this, mostly because romance readers are not really happy with cliffhangers, so when I have – most of my series that have been written in the past are standalone series, where you can pick up one book, and then skip around and pick up another book in the series, because they’re about different characters. So even though the world is the same, you can jump between characters; and it’s been really nice to go back to how I first started writing fiction, years ago, where there’s a continuing story. So that’s been really fun, and you get to go really deep into the world, and you understand all the side characters really well, so I think that’s something that’s really been great.
BookTrib: Julie, you’ve been writing romance for a pretty long time; you’ve written some of the top romance books on Amazon. What originally drew you to writing romance?
Julie: Well, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t have a job; I got laid off from my job. Well, they offered me a job, but I live in the middle of nowhere and they wanted me to drive into Denver for this job, and I just kept thinking ‘this sounds like my personal nightmare! I can’t take this job’, even though it was a really good job! So I told them “No, I’m going to go write books for a living.”
I was in the middle of this science fiction series and it got decent reviews; it’s a great story, but it just wasn’t selling. So I was looking at all the people who were successful and they were all new adult genre authors, and that was when I wrote Tragic, which was my first book that really took off. I wrote that in 2013, and I did not expect the response that I got but people just sort of fell in love with it and I just kept going and going.
BookTrib: Speaking of Tragic, what do you think the key is to bring to people together and not only have them click, but have the audience fall in love with them?
Julie: Personally, I think that the best romance couples in books or movies, even real life, honestly, are two people who give each other something that they don’t already have. So I think that in Tragic, they just gave each other something that they needed, but didn’t have. I think our two characters in the Original Sin series are doing the same thing – I think that they need each other, and they need different things, and each one has that thing that they need.
Johnathan: I think that is certainly true. I also think that Julie is just incapable of telling a lie and that translates into her work as well. It’s such a funny thing, the easiest thing in the world to do is just simply say the truth, but it’s also the hardest thing to do, because it means you have to be vulnerable, and exposed and so forth. But I think that with us, our having to be vulnerable and exposed and bare with each other in our creative process… I mean, this is a business relationship, but there are parallels to any sort of new relationship. So as our couple is navigating their way through the dynamics of what it means to learn about each other, to discover each other and to be brave enough to be naked both literally and figuratively with each other, we’re sort of figuring out those same things too. I’m curious to see what happens as we write in the future and the dynamics of our creative partnerships shift and change, and how that informs our characters.
BookTrib: In the Original Sin series, we’re introduced to Maddie and Tyler, who are incredibly fleshed out characters. Did you decide before who they were going to be and how they were going to develop or did they surprise you and develop themselves through the writing process?
Julie: I found Maddie as we went through the first book. I mean, I knew basic things about her, but usually when I’m developing a character it takes me a little while to get to know them as a reader. I knew a few things about who she was and how she acted, and of course we knew where we were headed at the end of the book, so I had her secrets in my head. I think that she developed a little more along the way than Tyler did. Would you say so, Johnathan?
Johnathan: Yeah, I’d say that’s true. Tyler was based, in part, on a character I created for a TV show that never got made, so I sort of already had a head start on that, for sure. But I feel like Julie and I are not shy about putting ourselves into the characters that we write. So I think you’re absolutely right in terms of the specifics, but I think on an innate human level, it feels to me like you tapped into a certain part of your personality; it’s not all you, but there are certain elements of you in her.
Julie: I think that with every female character that I write, part of them is me. Not all of them – though I wish I lived some of those lives – but part of them is definitely me. There’s a side of Maddie that is just Julie.
BookTrib: Final thoughts on what we can expect in the next book, three weeks from now? After this series, can we expect future collaborations?
Julie: [on future collaborations] Yes!
Johnathan: We actually have – once the series is done – we have a little two part-er that we have planned, and then we’ve got two epic stand-alones, with pretty big ideas. The next year, really, is filled with Julie and Johnathan stuff to do. Then, in the meantime, as if we don’t have enough to do, we’re creating a TV show. I’m excited and terrified, I don’t know. What about you, Julie?
Julie: The same, really. But just to think, we’ve only known each other for about a year. Doesn’t that freak you out a little bit?
Johnathan: When I was writing my author’s note at the end of the book, I went back and found our first exchange, and was just like, “Is that actually right? We’ve only known each other for a year?” And it was, it was December . It’s so weird.
Julie: It really is. It’s really weird and fast, but it’s all really good. It’s exciting.
Johnathan: I was actually writing something for the second book – I haven’t even told Julie this – but I had written four, five paragraphs, and I just deleted the whole thing. I was like, “No, that’s just shoehorning something that I want to talk about, but it’s not right for this and I have to do it with a different character and it’ll make the book better if I wait,” like that kind of thing. That’s what I discovered: there’s a difference between serving the story and serving your ego and I kind of learned to tread that line a little bit.
This interview has been condensed for space and continuity.
Sin With Me, Book 1 of The Original Sin Series was released today.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Two accomplished writers come together to create unforgettable sexy romance. JA Huss is the New York Times bestselling author of 321 and has been on the USA Today bestseller’s list eighteen times. Johnathan McClain is a veteran actor and writer whose work, either performed or written, is probably airing on at least one of the channels on your television right now. You can contact them on their website HussMcClain.com.