Johnny is SUA (something undefinable but awesome) and co-founder of Sterling & Stone. “SUA” isn’t an official title, but Johnny doesn’t like labels. Especially labels like “COO.” Barf.
Once upon a time, Johnny entered this world in a primordial explosion of abs and intensity. Because Johnny knows how to listen a lot better than Sean and isn’t always hogging the mic like his partner, much less is known about his history.
(Johnny popped in at this point during the writing of his bio and wants us to let you know he’s told his entire story over and over in a few of S&S’s nonfiction books because apparently he thinks everyone wants to hear it. What’s below is the “saving you from the long-ass story” version.)
Regardless, we are sure of a few things, so let’s go ahead and cover those:
- He was born to two creative parents: a business dad and an artist mom. Their positions flipped years later, with his mother spending Johnny’s formative years building a thriving business and his father becoming a painter (canvases, not walls). Then Mom flipped back. I guess they’re both painters now. So confusing.
- He was valedictorian of his high school class.
- Then he met his wife, Robin, who tolerated him before marriage and has ever since.
- He got a molecular genetics graduate fellowship, then told his PhD program to piss off after too many mind-numbing days spent counting fruit flies.
- Children followed. Two of them. The first things Johnny taught his son to say were “pneumatic tube” and (after the boy had to get stitches) “Chicks dig scars.” Then he taught them about punk rock and David Bowie.
- After Johnny left grad school, he dabbled in several things: a brief existential crisis, a failed real estate investment career, and a bankruptcy. When none of those proved fruitful, Johnny decided to start blogging using his trademark intensity. His most popular blog post was called “The Universe Doesn’t Give a Flying Fuck About You.”
- Yes, seriously.
- Somehow, blogging led to entrepreneurship led to the reawakening of his love of writing, which had been present since he’d been a fetus.
- He met Sean in New York, where they bonded over writing and the work of a delightful fellow named André Chaperon. Later Sean told Johnny that he’d figured out how to make a living as an author without bending over for literary agents like Johnny had been trying to do, fruitlessly, for years. Johnny was intrigued and decided to hitch his wagon to Sean’s on this whole “make a living writing” thing. The best way to do that? He decided to pitch Sean and Sean’s other partner Dave on starting a podcast.
- Even though Sean told a friend who’d been there when they met that Johnny was arrogant, Johnny still pulled off his podcast-fueled long con and joined Sean and Dave, making a trio.
- Everything changed.
What followed was a rebirth of Johnny’s dormant desire to publish books as a career. He dusted off his trunk novel (The Bialy Pimps) and published it, then wrote the Fat Vampire series, an option for which was sold and the conversion to a TV show begun. Johnny’s first co-written book with Sean was Unicorn Western. As of this writing, that was the first of almost a hundred Platt & Truant books with many more to come.
Sean was right about Johnny being arrogant, but it was an acceptable level of arrogance given his many layers of competence and general awesomeness. In the first two years after starting the podcast, S&S had helped to alter the landscape of indie publishing, launch a record setting Kickstarter to perform their storytelling magic live, and consistently challenge established norms with new ways of doing things.
If Sean is the captain, then Johnny (or whatever he chooses to call himself by the time you read this) is the compass. Sean gets an idea into the air so everyone can see it, but without Johnny that’s where many of the studio’s best ideas might stay. Up in the clouds where they were born instead of down on the ground where they belong.
For a long time Sean was having too many of the wrong kind of ideas, and that made it hard for Johnny to do his job. It was back to fruit flies. Except instead of them being dead, these were alive (at least metaphorically) and giant. Flying right in his face. Johnny kept having to swat them away. The dumbest of Sean’s fruit fly ideas was his concept for a subscription box service. The most tempting was the time he wanted to be “the Nabisco of weed butter.”
Sean finally read Essentialism or watched Marie Kondo or something, because all of a sudden S&S could finally focus on the most important things. They closed their bulky education wing, got rid of writing software they’d created because why were they ever in the software business to begin with?, and started telling stories like they were born to do. But now they told those stories better than ever, because they were building the systems to not only bring their studio into the future, but to help create it.
Johnny is the backbone of Sterling & Stone, and its strongest, most consistent voice. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, two children, two dogs, and the best abs on his block. You can find him eating at Jack Allen’s on 360 around 4% of the time.