Guest post by Christian Schoon, author of Zenn Scarlett.

So, why is the heroine of my book an exoveterinarian specializing in the treatment of big, dangerous alien animals?

This question calls for some quick background. After our house burned down along with about 300 other houses in the Southern California wildfire-onslaught of ’93, my wife and I rebuilt, and after a few years, sold out and moved from LA to Iowa, where we bought an old farmstead. I’d grown up in the Midwest, and had long fantasized about moving back and owning my own place in the country and having a few more animals (we had two dogs and two cats when we left LA).

Our new place had lots of outbuildings, 11 acres of pasture. When we went out and opened the door to the old hog shed, twenty-two pairs of eyes swiveled around to appraise us. Cats. Twenty-two of them. Startled, my wife wondered what in the world we were going to do. Well, first of all, I told her, we’ll get them spayed and neutered.

After a short search and several phone calls, we connected up with a local veterinarian who owned a mobile clinic housed in a 30-foot motor home. One day, Dr. Jenni drove into the farmyard, we started catching cats, and Dr. Jenni commenced a cat-fixing marathon. It took us two days to convince all the felines that this really was the best thing for all concerned. By the time it was over, Dr. Jenni was both our vet and our friend. Before long, we were also friends with her new husband, who turned out to be a former zoo-employee and a semi-pro herpetologist with a vast knowledge of all things reptilian.

Over the next few years, we became involved with Jenni’s special needs animal shelter, which took in felines with diseases that made them generally unadoptable, like feline leukemia and FIV. (Though I need to add that many cats with these illnesses can live long, happy lives; but in some cases, they’re contagious, so need to live w/ others who have the same problem.)Then, Dr. J started taking in more exotic animals. First, locals like raccoons, white tail deer, possums, etc. Then a couple of orphaned coyotes, a pelican, ferrets, a flying squirrel. About that time, my wife and I struck up a relationship with an equine rescue group that helped save horses that had been abandoned or neglected. We had lots of pasture and barn space, and soon we had a dozen rescued horses grazing on our grass. We loved to see these malnourished animals gain weight, flesh out, regain their trust in humans and then be adopted out to qualified new owners.

Next, Jenni’s shelter started receiving even more exotic wildlife, either due to injury or confiscation by police for various reasons. Before long, we were helping to rehabilitate and/or find permanent homes for black bears, mountain lions, Burmese pythons long as a mini-bus, ten-foot alligators and dozens of other animals, some big, some dangerous, no aliens. Yet.
Through all of the above, we watched as Dr. Jenni and other extraordinary veterinarians stepped into the breach when animals needed someone to rescue them, to heal them, to save their lives and, often by sheer force of will, help secure a future for them that would be free from pain, degradation, thoughtless treatment or outright exploitation. Many of the vets doing this sort of work do it in their spare time for little or no compensation. On more than one occasion, we’ve seen vets literally put their lives on the line to save animals, and then brush off any assertion of heroism, acting like this is just part of the job description.

To say this entire experience was inspiring really doesn’t do the situation justice. But yes, when I decided to combine my life-long science fiction addiction with my affinity for pretty much any life form on the planet, I really didn’t have to rummage around all that much for my Big Idea. Writing a book about a novice exovet who fearlessly climbs on the snout of an 80-foot whalehound because it needs her help… yeah, that’s my kind of heroine.

Born in the American Midwest, Christian started his writing career in earnest as an in-house writer at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California. He then became a freelance writer working for various film, home video and animation studios in Los Angeles. After moving from LA to a farmstead in Iowa several years ago, he continues to freelance and also now helps re-hab wildlife and foster abused/neglected horses. He acquired his amateur-vet knowledge, and much of his inspiration for the Zenn Scarlett series of novels, as he learned about – and received an education from – these remarkable animals.

Zenn Scarlet is out in paperback and ebook formats on the 2nd May 2013.

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