John Yunker Celebrates Animals & the Heroes Who Strive to Protect Them in His Novel, The Tourist Trail

If you enjoy books with drama, adventure, excitement, and even a little romance, you will definitely enjoy John Yunker’s new book, The Tourist Trail. If you love animals you will enjoy The Tourist Trail even more. And if you are someone who is passionate about protecting animals and conserving our oceans, then you better run and get this book now!

The Tourist Trail, by John Yunker

The Tourist Trail celebrates the everyday heroes who spend their lives doing anything and everything they can do to help animals. In the book, John strategically introduces important issues and messages via an entertaining, non-threatening medium. Talking with John recently on the phone emphasized to me (Cindi Saadi) that this man is on a mission to change the way people who strive to protect the Earth and the animals are perceived. And he wants to do it through fiction.

Talk with John and you will have no doubt that animal rights and environmental activists/advocates are in very good hands being portrayed in his powerful and enjoyable truth-based fiction. And hopefully he will inspire many more writers to join him in creating a mainstream movement of animal rights/environmental fiction.

In our phone interview, John talks about the inspiration behind The Tourist Trail and his passion for educating people about animals, the earth, and the people who strive to protect them. He also shares how pivotal the Animal Rights National Conference was for his personal and professional journey. Thank you, John, for raising awareness through your gift of writing!

*****ALSO – for 2 LUCKY PEOPLE – John is generously giving away copies of his book. See details about how to win a copy of The Tourist Trail at the end of this blog interview.*****

FARM:  What inspires you to write?

JOHN: We are in a new heroic age. The heroes in this age are the protectors and the rescuers. The people who devote their lives to these causes and work in obscurity are heroes and heroines. They don’t make a lot of money and they devote their lives to issues that are not very popular. This inspires me to write. It’s what I can contribute. FARM really brought this home for me when I went to the Animal Rights National Conference in 2007. To see so many people from all around the world doing so many things, risking and investing so much of their lives for the animals, was inspirational. Most people don’t know these struggles are going on around the world. If I can create a book that can raise awareness and empathy for how animals and our oceans are treated, then maybe we can get more people’s support.

FARM:  What experiences influenced your decision to go vegan?

JOHN: Attending the 2007 Animal Rights National Conference hosted by FARM in Los Angeles was a life-changing experience, to put it mildly. I had been working on my book, The Tourist Trail, since 2004 and had become passionate about the environment and sea animals. I had given up seafood, but was still fairly ignorant about animal issues around the globe. After the first night at the conference, I called my wife and said, “That’s it, I’m done [eating meat/using animal products].” I went there thinking I needed to learn more for the novel, but that event changed my life dramatically for the better and also broadened the scope of the novel.

FARM:  What was your primary goal in writing The Tourist Trail?

JOHN: I wanted to create a book that would raise awareness and that someone with no knowledge or interest in animal rights could read and come away changed. It is designed to be a thriller, a literary adventure, and to draw you in without being too preachy. I grew up in the Midwest and was raised to be a meat-eater and not think about what I ate. I understand how difficult it is to think about these things and change the way you view the world. This is the person I hope to reach. I would love for people to read the book and go vegan, but I am also trying to show that these activists are worthy of the great epic novels of our time. Their struggle, taking on these unpopular and unprofitable causes, is heroic. We all like heroes, but we don’t realize they walk among us, are vegan, and are striving to protect animals.

FARM:  Tell us about the inspiration behind The Tourist Trail.

Penguins in Punta Tombo Photo by John Yunker

JOHN: In 2004, I volunteered with The Penguin Project, helping with the penguin census in Punta Tombo, in the Patagonia region of Argentina. To say this was life-changing is an understatement. Twenty-five years ago this Magellanic penguin colony was almost wiped out as the Japanese were planning to harvest them to use for women’s gloves. A local park ranger and his wife managed to stop it. Dee Boersma (U. of Washington) started doing research to see if the colony was growing or shrinking. Now the colony is protected and is a popular tourist attraction; however, the penguins must now be protected from tourists during breeding season, and from many threats such as fishing and oil spills.

The people who work on behalf of these penguins are unbelievable. They dedicate their lives to these creatures. A number of the researchers have been there for 10 years or longer, doing the important work of counting and tracking these animals. They never tire. The work is tedious and it’s cold. Water is trucked in so they can have one cold shower a week. They are up at dawn and work until dark. The don’t complain and bear scars all over their arms from the penguins. They band thousands of penguins so that they can find out where they are going. They gather this data so that they can present the government with hard proof that the colony is diminishing and is struggling to find food because of the offshore fishing. Without data, the government will favor the fishermen.

One day in Punta Tombo, there were about a dozen of us eating lunch on the rocks, watching the penguins coming and going on the shore. Looking at the long shore of rocks, I had a vision of someone washing up and a naturalist discovering him. I returned home and wrote a short-story based on that vision. The story won an award and was published, but I wasn’t ready yet to let go of it. So I expanded it into a novel, which after numerous drafts became The Tourist Trail.

FARM:  Why did you choose to focus on penguins?

Penguins in the water at Punta Tombo. Photo by John Yunker

JOHN: Penguins are great animals to focus on for a lot of reasons. As was explained to me, penguins are sentinels of the ocean. They are extremely sensitive to changes and so as we learn about them, we learn about the state of our planet. It’s also hard to meet someone who doesn’t like a penguin. I wanted to make the connection between penguins and the food on our plate. The food we feed to farmed salmon, for example, is being taken away from waters where the penguin feed. We take food from one species to feed another. There is no ethical or guilt-free seafood.

To really see what penguins deal with is incredible. They struggle to make a living, traveling hundreds of miles to get food and raise their chicks. A penguin couple acts as a tag team and if one gets caught in a net and dies, it will likely destroy the family as the other mate will have to leave to save his or her own life. A colony can be decimated very quickly.

FARM:  Do the characters in the book represent real people?

JOHN: Angela seems very real to me, but she is really a collection of voices. Aeneas is a mythical figure inspired by Paul Watson. Ethan has a fair amount of me in him. And so does Robert, whose character goes through a transformation, just as writing this book was transformational for me.

And then there is the penguin character, Diesel, who was inspired by the real penguin, Turbo. Turbo is a special little guy in Punta Tombo who really took to the researchers. You can even pet him and he does not bite. He knows the people and comes when his name is called. He likes to hang out with the humans and tries to come into their offices. Turbo even has his own Facebook page and every year people wait for an update on his page to make sure he returned safely.

The Friendly Turbo! Photo by John Yunker

It’s hard for people to not get attached to Diesel/Turbo. It seems that when there are a lot of a certain kind of animal, we tend to think of them as alike and it can be easier to not care about them as individuals. But the minute one has a name and a personality, people begin to realize that they could all have a personality, a family, challenges, and histories. Just as farm sanctuaries are introducing animals as individual personalities. We are all very good at compartmentalizing. But I think we are getting to an age where those distinctions are going to be hard to uphold.

FARM:  What kind of feedback have you received from people who have read the book? How is the book doing overall?

JOHN: Overall the responses have been very positive. I am self-published and it’s been going quite well. I’ve also been approached by a Korean publisher and it would be amazing to get it published overseas. After reading the book, even some of the most conservative people have paused to think more about the ocean. Some people told me they cried. One person said it was too traumatic and a few people could not finish it. But a lot of non-animal rights people picked it up because it sounded interesting and really liked it. That’s the best review of all.

FARM:  What do you think the animal rights cause needs more of?

JOHN: The thing about both animal rights and the environment is that there is not enough fiction that focuses on these causes. If an activist is included in fiction, the character is typically portrayed as a wacko. I believe this has to change. I did find an agent for this novel and I was heartened to see that my book did not get rejected anywhere because of the animal rights theme. However, publishers are afraid to take chances, which is why the book did not find a home. However, once a few books do break through, then publishers will begin to pay attention. But we need to prove there is a mainstream market. I think it’s impossible to not see animal rights being one of the great mainstream issues of our generation and the next one. I’d like to encourage more writers to write about animal rights and environmental issues.

FARM:  Do you have any projects you are working on currently?

JOHN: Yes, I am working on a loosely-related sequel, so stay tuned! Also, my wife, Midge Raymond, and I have formed Byte Level Books, which is dedicated to publishing books with a world view. We are currently looking for submissions from writers of animal rights or eco-lit. My wife is a full-time creative writer and we previously worked together to write a book with an environmental theme. We know there are so many voices out there and we want to help get those amazing stories out into the world.

Visit The Tourist Trail Web site to learn more about the book or to order copies. You can also connect with John on Facebook and on Twitter @touristtrail or @bytelevelbooks. You can reach him by E-mail at

~ Cindi Saadi for the FARM Blog


For your chance at winning a free copy of The Tourist Trail, please complete the following 2 steps: (before March 2nd)

1) In a comment to this blog, please answer the following questions:
a) What is the title of your favorite animal rights novel? (except for The Tourist Trail, of course :-))
b) What type of animal rights novel would you like to see published? i.e. what type of story-line

2) On FARM’s Facebook page find the entry about THIS BLOG POST, then please post a comment to that post with your answers to the same 2 questions above.

**Extra) And for extra chances to win – Send a hello tweet to @FARMUSA and @Touristtrail and mention this blog post!

The two winners will be selected on MARCH 2nd, so enter soon!


Cindi Saadi ~ I am a vegan, and a passionate lover of animals & the Earth. I believe animals are sentient, extraordinary beings who have lives that matter. They deserve our respect, compassion, and protection. I am also a writer, photographer, artist, and life coach who was thankfully rescued by the best shelter dog ever! :-)

11 thoughts on “John Yunker Celebrates Animals & the Heroes Who Strive to Protect Them in His Novel, The Tourist Trail

  1. Great job, John, and thanks for your contribution to our fight for our non-human friends!
    Contest answers:
    a) My favorite animal rights novel is “The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals,” by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
    b) I hope to see more books published that shine a light on the “humanity” of animals. For example, I think that if more people knew the capabilities of animals to feel what many consider to be “human emotions,” the battle would be fought harder to improve their lives.

  2. Wow, I am excited to read the book- The Tourist Trail. It’s wonderful that you took the time and care to research this and write a book you are passionate about. I hope this will be a book that I can share with my friends and family to help show them why I don’t eat meat. I am particularly disgusted with the way large farms handle animals in the USA and also the inbalance of food chains throughout the world. With your new book, I hope to learn the intracacies of the seafood trade, which I know only a little about.
    1) My favorite book on animal rights is Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”.
    2) I would like to see a fantasy/science fiction type novel published about animal rights. Something that is rooted in the facts of today, but it should showcase how terrible factory farms are and be some kind of futuristic dystopia. Hmm, I’m a writer, maybe I should work on writing this. 🙂

  3. John, I feel so grateful for people like you who are a voice for the animals. Although I have read severaI books about animal welfare and animal rights, I have not read any novels about animal activists. That’s why yours sounds so wonderful. I would like to see a book written about the future (hopefully the near future) about the day the last slaughterhouse closes.

  4. I look forward to reading this books.

    1) My favorite – but hardest to read is “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer

    2) I would love to read a book that talks more about how to have more impact on fighting for animal rights – more stories about all the good that people are making and that their efforts do make a difference.


  5. I want to thank everyone for the warm and thoughtful comments. It’s not easy selecting just two people to receive books as I really enjoyed what you all had to say. And I agreed with your book suggestions as well.

    As for me, one of my favorite animal rights novels is Moby Dick, which I realize doesn’t exactly feel like a book about protecting animals. And yet the idea of a whale fighting back was and is inspiring to me. I’d like to think Melville felt similarly. For the non-fiction account of the real whale attack that inspired Melville, check out Nathaniel Philbrick’s book “In the Heart of the Sea.”

    Today, there are humans who have dedicated their lives not to killing whales or dolphins or seals, but to protecting them. These people inspire me every day. These people deserve literature worthy of Melville.

    To help aspiring writers get the word out, my wife and I have launched Ashland Creek Press ( We’d love to hear from you.

    Oh, and what about those two free books? I’ve selected Lindsey Dawn and E. Kaida. I’ll be in touch shortly.

    Thanks again to the commenters — and to FARM (and Cindi)!

  6. Congratulations, Emily! You are one of the winners of John’s exciting book, The Tourist Trail. I know you will enjoy it. And feel free to let us know what you thought. Thank you again for commenting and I agree with your last statement…. you should get writing! 🙂 Also – The VINE Sanctuary recently published a cool article on their blog about Star Trek and AR – I think you might enjoy it. Here is the link:

  7. Congratulations, Lindsey! You are one of the winners of John’s book! I know you will enjoy it and hope you will share your feedback about the book with us here at the FARM blog. I really agree with your comment about helping people to connect more with animals on an emotional level. I hope to see LOTS more books, other media, art, etc. that helps with this. Thanks again for participating! 🙂

  8. Hi Sharon – I wanted to thank you for participating in the giveaway and I hope that although you did not win a free copy – you will still get The Tourist Trail. You will enjoy it! I also wanted to say that I love your idea for a book about the day the LAST slaughterhouse closes! Woohoo! Perhaps you should start working on that one! Thanks again! 🙂

  9. Hi Lizbeth ~ Thank you so much for participating in the book giveaway contest. I am sorry you did not get a free copy of John’s book, but I hope you will still make sure to read it! You are right – there are so many real life stories out there to share. I have been able to find some (non-fiction) books with more positive stories and hope you have too. If not – feel free to e-mail me at for some ideas. Thanks again! 🙂

  10. Thank you, John – for doing this generous book giveaway. We know that these two lucky winners will enjoy The Tourist Trail and will want to share it with others! We are excited to hear about Ashland Creek Press and look forward to all the amazing, compassionate writers who will emerge thanks to you and your wife and your passion for the animals and the Earth! Cheers!

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