Tyrell Johnson's debut novel, The Wolves of Winter, a postapocalyptic story based in the Yukon, will be released next month. The writer, editor and outdoors lover studied fiction and poetry at the University of California, Riverside. Originally from Bellingham, Wash., he now lives in Kelowna, B.C., with his family and Siberian husky.
Where did you write this book?
I work in my mother-in-law's horse barn, which sounds more rustic than it really is. There's a nice office there, and it's usually quiet unless the donkey [Jim] starts acting up.
Where do your breakthroughs come?
More often than not, my ideas come when I'm on a hike with my dog. It's partly because being outdoors is relaxing for me, and partly because I think there's something that happens when you focus on a simple activity like putting one foot in front of the other. It frees up the back of your brain to spin and work and come up with new ideas.
Which historical period do you wish you'd lived through, and why?
I think I was born not only in the wrong time, but the wrong place. I was meant for the Scottish Highlands, any time before 1745 [when the British started to annihilate Highland culture]. Never mind the plague, famine and war, I was meant to wear a kilt.
If aliens landed on Earth, which book would you give them to teach them about humanity?
The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene. Even for this line alone: "Hate was just a failure of imagination."
What's the best sentence you've ever written, and why?
I don't know about "the best," but I'm pretty proud of the opening line of The Wolves of Winter: "The trap was empty and the snow was bloody, which meant one of three things." I think there's a lot in there that might make readers, at the very least, want to read the next sentence.
Who's your favourite villain in literature, and why?
It's not literature, but I'd choose Wilson from Cast Away. Don't tell me he's not the villain. His silence is menacing and his face is made out of blood.
Which books haven't you read that you feel you should?
I've never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I think in high school we were given a choice to either read To Kill a Mockingbird or Lord of the Flies. I probably picked Lord of the Flies because I thought it was about an actual bug rising to some hierarchical dominion.
What's a book every 10-year-old should read, and why?
Harry Potter. Because I read it as a 10-year-old and there was nothing more exciting.
How does it feel to have this book out in the world?
This being my first novel, there's a wide range of emotion: excitement, elation, dread, anxiety and an overwhelming amount of gratitude for the people who made this a reality. I know I'm incredibly lucky to have gotten this far, and it's all thanks to so many talented people that have helped bring this book to life.