Heading into 2018, there’s a good chance Tyrell Johnson’s debut novel, The Wolves of Winter, wasn’t on your radar. Honestly, I missed it too. So when I finally heard about this book a couple of weeks ago, after it was already out, I didn’t know what to expect. When I first sat down with the book, I planned to read the first chapter and then go about some of my other tasks. But when I finished the first chapter, I had to start the second. And then the third. . .
When it was all said and done, I had flown through Johnson’s book, very rarely setting it down — when I did, it was just to take a short break so I could get right back into the story.
Johnson’s novel is a post-apocalyptic thriller, starring an attractive young woman who lives in a secluded compound with her family and a few other individuals. The world as it was when she was a young child is no more. Multiple nuclear wars and a deadly flu virus have forever changed things — and Johnson builds a stunning, mostly snow-filled universe that pops with exciting visuals and details. He brings everything to life, transporting the reader to the same village the characters occupy, giving them a front-row seat to the action that quickly unfolds when a mysterious man suddenly shows up, altering their lives once again.
I promise you one thing, I won’t make the same mistake heading into 2019 as I did this year. . . because I’m already waiting for Johnson’s follow-up, dying to know what comes next.
After finishing the book (which has been a hit with some Book Spy followers already), I reached out to Johnson to see if he’d be game for our Five Questions segment. Turns out, he was — and he gave some really fantastic answers. See the Q&A below, then keep scrolling to read more plot details about The Wolves of Winter.
TRBS: Parts of this book feel like The Hunger Games, other parts feel like World War Z or The Walking Dead. . . And while she has some similarities to Katniss Everdeen, Lynn McBride is a unique, great new character. Why did you make your protagonist a female, and who was your inspiration for her?
Johnson: “I didn’t have a specific inspiration for Lynn McBride. At least in regard to her character development. She’s part characters I’ve read, part characters I’ve seen in movies, part characters I know in real life, and, honestly, part me. However, I suppose if anyone inspired Lynn, it would be my daughter. I wanted to write a badass female protagonist that my daughter could grow up reading, rooting for, and seeing herself in.”
TRBS: Since finishing this book, the one question I’ve been dying to ask you is will there be a sequel, and do you plan for this to be a long-running series?
Johnson: “Nothing is ‘in the books’ yet, but I do have a plan for two more novels (the illustrious trilogy) and probably no more than that with these characters.”
TRBS: Reading this book, the whole thing is so cinematic. Visually, it’s stunning. Should this one day ever be picked up for a movie or TV show, who would be your dream casting choices for Lynn and Jax?
Johnson: “Ha! Good question, but hard question. Partly, I’d like to see some brand new actors hit the screen, but that’s a boring answer so: I can see Saoirse Ronin doing a fantastic job with Lynn. I also watched Captain Fantastic not too long ago and thought that Annalise Basso might make a great Lynn. For Jax. . . me? Can I just play Jax? I’ve already got the dog.”
TRBS: Lastly, who are some of your favorite authors, and what books are currently on your TBR list?
Johnson: “I love David Mitchell, Jeff Vandermeer, Margaret Atwood, Emily St. John Mandell, and Patrick Rothfuss. Recent reads that I’ve really enjoyed: My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Talent; The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti; Dark Matter by Blake Crouch; and Beartown by Fredrick Backman. . . I’ll stop there.
“On my TBR pile: Iron Gold (Pierce Brown), Force of Nature, (Jane Harper), and The Gone World (Tom Sweterlitsch).”
“A captivating tale of humanity pushed beyond its breaking point, of family and bonds of love forged when everything is lost, and of a heroic young woman who crosses a frozen landscape to find her destiny. This debut novel is written in a post-apocalyptic tradition that spans The Hunger Games and Station Eleven but blazes its own distinctive path.
“Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive in the endless white wilderness beyond the edges of a fallen world.
“Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As the memories of her old life continue to haunt, she’s forced to forge ahead in the snow-drifted Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap and slaughter.
“Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who brings with him dark secrets of the past and sets in motion a chain of events that will call Lynn to a role she never imagined.
“Simultaneously a heartbreakingly sympathetic portrait of a young woman searching for the answer to who she is meant to be and a frightening vision of a merciless new world in which desperation rules, The Wolves of Winter is enveloping, propulsive, and poignant.”
Special thanks to Ty Johnson for going on the record, and for giving such great answers. If you haven’t already, make sure to pick up a copy of The Wolves of Winter, now in bookstores everywhere!
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck is the editor-in-chief of The Real Book Spy, and one of the thriller genre’s most well-recognized critics. He currently lives in southwest Michigan with his wife and their five children. For more information, make sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook!