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Please introduce yourself.

I'm Dr Christine (Chris) King. I’m a holistic veterinarian, semi-retired and currently living in southern Victoria, Australia.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t think there was a defining moment for me. I’ve always loved words. Mum said I started talking early and my first word was actually a string of words, and they formed a complete sentence (well, a complete thought, anyway), so I think I’ve always been good at expressing myself with words. Looking back, writing has been the natural progression of that inclination.

When I was in primary (elementary) school, I wanted to be a teacher. I clearly remember having that thought in the first grade, so at 5 or 6 years of age. Thus far, I’ve only published nonfiction, and most of my writing has been academic or otherwise educational (e.g., books on animal care), so in a way I did become a teacher.

These days, I’m really interested in the nonphysical foundations of our physical lives. I think for each of us, the seeds of what we will become — or, at least, what we came here to do in this lifetime — are already germinating when we’re little kids. So, if at any time you’re questioning your path or you’re having trouble making a decision or taking the leap into the next chapter of your life, look back at the things you loved and the things you were good at when you were little. There, you’ll reconnect with who you are in your purest, clearest form, before everyone else started telling you who they think you are and what they think you should be doing with your life.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It varies greatly. With Retreat: notes from a virtual mountaintop retreat, I lived it, wrote about it, and published it as a book in under 4 months, from seed of an idea to published work. I was able to keep the momentum going, through a major life change and an interstate move, because the material excited me so much.

The Highly Sensitive Dog: making life easier for these wonderful dogs took even less time, in actual sitting-down-and-writing-it time. That one started as a series of blog posts, which I wrote in just a few days after I’d read the research paper that inspired it. When I decided to turn it into an e-book a few years later, it was completed and published in less than a week.

At the other end of the spectrum, I started working on my current project (Through the Looking-Glass: a bug’s-eye view of the equine gut and what it can tell us about feeding horses) in 2012, and I’m not even close to being done!

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I’ve been self-employed since 1994, and for many years I've lived a largely unscheduled life, so I don’t have a work schedule. I do have habits (some good, some not so good), but I try to avoid becoming “scheduled.”

I learned long ago not to force myself to sit down and write. Whenever I do, it’s slow going, a hard slog, and I tend to write complete rubbish. (Well, perhaps not complete rubbish, but uninspired, derivative drivel that is … no, 'complete rubbish' is right!)

Now, I write whenever I’m inspired, when I have something I really want to share. On those days, things flow smoothly and time flies. (I love those days!)

Many years ago, I watched a documentary about Jamie Wyeth, a third-generation American artist. This was back in the mid-'90s, so he was still a relatively young man at the time. I’d just left my full-time position at the vet school in Raleigh, North Carolina and had begun working as a freelance medical writer and editor, so I was still trying to figure out how to be productive when working for myself in a home-based business. When you’re a freelancer with no other means of support, if you don’t work, you don’t eat.

The interviewer asked Wyeth how he’d managed to be so prolific in such a relatively short period of time as a professional artist. Wyeth replied that he went to his studio at the same time each morning. Even if he didn’t feel like painting, he would do something — anything — related to his work, such as cleaning brushes, preparing canvasses, sorting through unfinished work that he’d set aside for “later.” Before long, he’d be inspired to pick up a brush and start painting. That struck me at the time as being particularly good advice for my predicament, and I’ve used it ever since in my academic writing. It has really helped me meet deadlines and move quickly onto the next project when one is completed.

But when it comes to my own books, which for me are spontaneous or otherwise inspired 'labours of love', it’s more important for me to clear my mind than immerse myself (and get lost) in the mechanics of creation. I always want my work to be truly authentic, truly original, and truly thought-provoking. I just haven’t found a way to accomplish that when writing to a schedule.

How do your books get published?

I’ve been self-publishing since 1999. I wrote my first book in 1997, when I was working for a small publishing company as their veterinary editor. The publisher expressed an interest in publishing a book on lameness in horses that was written specifically for horse owners and trainers, rather than yet another very technical veterinary textbook. I don’t remember how that conversation went, but I ended up writing the book myself.

That was a wonderful experience in some ways, as it taught me a tremendous amount about writing and publishing, and the book business in general. However, it was also a cautionary experience, as the unscrupulous publisher claimed the copyright of my book for himself, me not knowing any better at the time. I didn’t want a repeat of that exploitation, so I self-published from then on.

When I self-published for the first time, I did everything myself: interior layout and cover design, sourcing a printer, storing the entire print run in my tiny apartment, managing the marketing, wholesale distribution, retail order fulfillment, etc.

By the time I was ready to publish my fourth book in 2011, Amazon had started CreateSpace, which was later rebranded Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I now use either KDP or Lulu Press (and lately both) to produce print and e-book editions of my books.

I don’t like the print-on-demand model, particularly for hardcover editions (my personal favourite book format), because it takes too long between order and delivery, and because my books never appear in brick-and-mortar bookshops. However, the alternative is to not publish in print at all, and that’s just unacceptable to this bookworm. I love the feel of a book in my hands! I also love to sit and read with the light shining over my shoulder onto the page, rather than having the light shining into my eyes from the page (i.e., e-books).

I would love to find an established publisher to take me on. I really don’t like the marketing and distribution aspects of book publishing. I’d love to hand all that over to an experienced publishing house. So, if anyone is interested…

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

All over the place!

I write in three or four separate genres — veterinary medicine (i.e., for a professional audience), animal health (for a general audience), and spirituality / self-help — so the ideas and supporting information mostly come from these particular fields.

I must also say that whenever I’m stuck, whether personally or professionally, I do a form of active meditation in which I get quiet, tune in to the wise old voice in my head, and ask questions. I take notes as I go so that I can refer back to them later. This process has helped me tremendously in my writing (and in everyday life). In fact, I recently published a series of these notes as a book, The Game: hide, seek, find, laugh. In other words, I also get information and ideas from within myself.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

My first book was Equine Lameness. It was published in 1997, when I was 35 years old.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I’m smiling as I write this, because it may come as a bit of a shock, but these days I most often ‘veg out' in front of the TV, either binge-watching my favourite shows or trying new programs that pique my interest. I used to feel guilty about how much time I spend watching TV. But I stopped judging myself (and others) when I realised how important it is for my health, happiness, and creativity to park my busy brain for awhile and just let it idle and be entertained. I often have my best ideas when my mind is thus relaxed.

Walking does that for me, too, as does taking care of my garden and when I go to the gym, put on my headphones, and pump away to music. Anything that allows me to empty my mind or train it onto something else for awhile is good for me — and good for my writing.

What does your family think of your writing?

They haven’t said, but I think they’re wondering when I’ll go back to having a real job.  In particular, when I'll go back into veterinary practice. I’m now in my early 60s, so I can now get away with saying “I’m retired,” but they’re not really buying it. They haven’t said so, but I’m sure at least some of my siblings think I’m delusional about having a second career as an author.

Too bad! For me, it’s write or bust. I just don’t want to do anything else. In fact, were this subject to come up, I’d make like a petulant 3-year-old and tell them “I don’t wanna, and you can’t make me!”

Really; life is too short to be spending any of it doing something I don’t love!  In fact, not long after I closed my veterinary practice in late 2021, I wrote this note to myself:

“Oh, how good it feels to not be doing something I don’t love!"

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I hope you’ll indulge me by allowing two things:

1. How very much I enjoy the visual aspects of putting together a book — from choosing the typeface, type size, and line spacing I find most appealing, and otherwise managing the white space on the page, to the cover design. I have never thought of myself as a creative person; I don’t draw or paint or sculpt or do other “artistic” things. But I love these visual aspects of creating a book. I think I’ve gotten rather good at it, and I love the break it gives me from the more ‘cerebral’ aspects of writing and publishing a book. I really look forward to those more artistic elements.

2. How very much the publishing industry has changed in the past 30 years — particularly the fact that literary agents and publishers aren’t interested in you unless you already have a large social media following or you’ve given a TED talk or are otherwise well known already. That was both surprising and discouraging.

How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

I’ve published 11 books thus far, and I’m now working on my 12th (and incubating my 13th and 14th).

(If we’re counting the books to which I’ve contributed in some way, whether as medical writer or editor, there’s another 10.)

I love them all, but I think my current favourite is Better Together: how the animals we love can inspire our creativity and transform our shared lives.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Watch ’Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit’ with Whoopi Goldberg and Lauryn Hill. There’s a scene in which Whoopi urges Lauryn’s character to read Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet.

Whoopi describes how a young poet writes to Rilke, saying "I wanna be a writer; please read my stuff.” Rilke replies, “Don’t ask me about being a writer. If, when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer.” Whoopi goes on, "I’m gonna say the same thing to you. If you wake up in the morning and you can’t think of anything but singing, then you suppos'd to be a singer, girl.”  (I went back and watched the movie one more time, both to get the dialogue exactly right, and because the music is so good!!)

In essence, Rilke (and Whoopi) is saying “Writers write, so stop agonising about it; just write!”

That’s the first thing: keep writing! Good, bad, or meh — write! You can edit it, or rewrite it completely, later. If you have something you really want to say, then write it down. Keep a notebook handy for whenever inspiration strikes and you’re away from your computer. If you’re a smartphone junkie, then leave yourself a note or a voice memo on your phone. It never ceases to amaze me now often I get a great idea in the shower or the car or wherever, only for it to evaporate before I get it written down. I think to myself, "Oh, I’ll remember that!” but then it’s gone, kinda like waking up from a vivid dream which quickly fades once your ordinary awareness takes back over.

The second thing is to believe in yourself and your uniqueness as a person and as a writer. There never has been, and there never will be, another you. Ignore everyone else — what they’re doing and how they’re doing it — and dare to go your own way.

‪"Don't reinvent the wheel.” How many times have we all heard that?! But one of those times, I got to thinking... The people who invented and developed the hovercraft, the helicopter, the airplane, the caterpillar drive... Well, they didn't reinvent the wheel; they reimagined locomotion.

‪And so I began to think: what is it that I want to reimagine?‬

‪What is it that you want to reimagine? Do that.‬

The third thing is this: Read! I became a good writer by reading; by appreciating a really good piece of writing and by being annoyed by really bad writing (and thinking about how I, as the reader, would have preferred it to have been written/edited). And read across many different genres; it'll help you become a better communicator in yours.

That said, I generally don’t read other people’s stuff when I’m working on something of my own. I don’t want there to be any “seepage” of ideas or style.

Lastly, write the sort of books you’d want to read. I know that flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which says that the Field of Dreams adage, “If you build it, they will come,” is balderdash. We’re told to write books that people will want to read. There’s a certain logic to that — BUT that sort of following-the-herd thinking is what gets writers into trouble, writing uninspired pap, chasing after the latest trend in literature.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

No. I sometimes wonder about that, and all-too-often I feel discouraged that there has been so little expression of interest in my work. But then I stop and think to myself, “Well, how many of your favourite authors have you ever contacted?” The answer is none. Books are some of my most treasured possessions, and my favourite authors feel like trusted friends or beloved teachers. But I don’t contact them.


Thanks for reading all the way to the end. I hope something here inspires you in your own creative endeavours and encourages you to keep going!

Yiou can read more about me on my veterinary website,

25 May, 2024

Dr Christine King author photo

Interview with the author