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January 22, 2018

Book Notes - Tyrell Johnson "The Wolves of Winter"

The Wolves of Winter

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Tyrell Johnson's novel The Wolves of Winter is a suspenseful and engrossing post-dystopian debut.

Kirkus wrote of the book:

"With elements of Cormac McCarthy's The Road and TV's The Walking Dead, the book gets off to a gripping start, blending visceral thrills with existential reflections . . . A stylishly written debut by a novelist to keep an eye on….Johnson's outdoor adventure novel is lifted by his command of natural settings and his understanding of family bonding under extreme duress."


In his own words, here is Tyrell Johnson's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel The Wolves of Winter:



In all honesty, I don't listen to much music these days. Even in the gym, if I've got my headphones in, I'm listening to an audiobook. That said, it was a lot of fun thinking through what songs might fit a novel about a young heroine surviving in frozen post-apocalyptic world. It was great listening to a bunch of suggestions. Here's what I came up with:

Alive (Sia)
I heard this song while I was still working on writing/editing The Wolves of Winter, and I thought it worked well with some of the themes in the book. The lyrics speak of surviving through intense hardship, and I can't think of a more catastrophic hardship than an apocalypse.

Hurt (Johnny Cash)
To me, this song is about looking back at what mattered most to us and realizing it wasn't the money or material that lasted, it was the relationships. There's a sorrow to the song about people lost and time spent invested in the wrong things. I think this works well for my characters, especially Lynn as she looks back on her time spent with her father, wishing she'd had more.

Mad World (Gary Jules)
This song has a very melancholy feel to it that I think works well with an apocalypse. The lyrics reflect on a broken system and a society that spins around in circles. In my novel, the characters have broken out of that system and are living a life off the grid. Part of the journey of the novel is realizing that maybe we never needed the grid to begin with.

Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin)
This song is just kind of classic. The first line: "We come from the land of the ice and snow…" sets the stage nicely, since my book takes place during a nuclear winter in the frozen Yukon wilderness. There's also an excellent rhythm and pulse in the song that I think corresponds well with the driving action in the novel.

Wolves Without Teeth (Of Monsters and Men)
I'm not going to pretend to know exactly what this song is about, but the lyrics feature an image of running from wolves, which obviously works perfectly with the title and some of the themes of my novel.

Heaven (The Fire Theft)
This song, to me, is about hoping for hope. "Heaven, are you really waiting outside the door?" I think there's an element of this in The Wolves of Winter. There's hope for a better world, one built on the ruins of the old one.

Radioactive (Imagine Dragons)
This song just sort of screams apocalypse.

Heathens (21 Pilots)
In a world that has been destroyed, what types of people would be left? Maybe heathens one and all?

Cloudline (Joseph)
I actually know this band! They're a group of sisters with killer harmony and empowering lyrics. I thought this song had the perfect feel for my novel—but also check out White Flag, which is an excellent song about not giving up in the face of adversity (at least that's what I got out of it!).

Snow Wolf (Nick Cave and Warren Ellis)
This song was actually a recommendation by a blogger (http://www.theeloquentpage.co.uk/2018/01/12/the-wolves-of-winter-by-tyrell-johnson) who reviewed The Wolves of Winter. They recommended this song/album as a compliment to the novel, and I think it works really well. It evokes an eerie, snowy environment.


Tyrell Johnson and The Wolves of Winter links:

the author's website

Kirkus review
Publishers Weekly review

Globe and Mail interview with the author
Powell's essay by the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

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Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

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