Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kristine M. Smith, Serval Son: Spots and Stripes Forever

The author with actor with DeForest Kelley '91

AUTHOR: Kristine M. Smith
BOOK TITLE: SERVAL SON: Spots and Stripes Forever
PUBLISHER: FutureWord Publishing
Readers can hear my interview on The Authors Show by visiting my blog at and see two trailers about the book (which I also wrote) at YouTube by doing a search on “Serval Son.”

1) Tell me a little about your book and give a short synopsis.

If you have ever wondered what it’s like to own—and be owned by—a wild animal, get ready to experience it in ways you will never forget.  SERVAL SON: Spots and Stripes Forever is a cautionary true story about what it takes to dedicate your life to a wild animal to the exclusion of nearly every other normal relationship you expect to have for the duration of the animal’s lifetime. One reviewer, Stephanie Ealy, says, “If someone in Hollywood doesn’t option this story to become a movie, they’re asleep at the switch. In my opinion, SERVAL SON ranks right up there with Marley and Me.”

2) What gave you the idea for this particular book?

My mentor, the late actor DeForest Kelley—who met, knew and loved my serval son Deaken— told me I had to write a book about him. While De was alive, I balked, knowing that if I did write a book it might encourage other people to get a wild animal as a pet—and most stories like mine don’t end happily ever after for any of the participants. Most wild pets are given up as soon as they do something wild, and they do it often, both predictably and unpredictably.  But for the past year I was having vivid dreams about Deaken again, and I realized I could write the book without causing gazillions of people to want one and long as I was sure to tell the good, the bad, and the ugly about what it’s like to undertake a responsibility like this. So I wrote the book as a cautionary tale in the hope it will allow people to vicariously feel what it’s like to own a wild animal, and that it will alert those who truly plan to get one so they’ll know what they’re getting into.  I think most will decide to accept the “vicarious” ride and decline the actual experience after they see what goes into it. At least, that’s my fervent hope!

3) Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I’m a full-time writer, but only a part-time earner. A lot of a writer’s time—especially a copywriter’s, which is how I define myself now—is looking for projects that resonate with me and bidding on them; when I get them, I invest time learning all I can about the offer (product or service) so I can write about it in compelling ways. Writing involves a lot more than putting words on paper. There’s a lot more involved if you want to do it as a profession.

4) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I knew the moment I was shown how to string words together in grade school. I’ve been writing ever since: journals, essays, reports, stories, poems, books, you name it.

5) What do you hope readers will take from your writing?  

A real sense of what it was like to be there, doing whatever it is I’m describing as they read along. I want them to feel what I felt, learn what I learned, see what I saw, grow the way I grew through it all.

6) What types of writing do you prefer, and why? 

Non-fiction. I like writing that teaches something worth knowing. Fiction can do this, too—don’t get me wrong—and I do like to write fiction, but only in realms that are already well-known, like Star Trek, so I can write in a way that I don’t really have to describe physicality. When I set Spock and McCoy to sparring verbally, readers already know what they look like, so I can concentrate on the words and on the true meanings behind them. I prefer the psychology of characters to their physicality and surroundings. I’m big on dialogue when it comes to fiction.

7) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
I love every aspect of writing. I guess I least like the business aspects—keeping track of payments, estimated taxes, what’s deductible and what’s not—that kind of thing. I’m right-brained, so that kind of stuff bores me.

8) What draws you to non-fiction writing?
I like teaching and learning. I suppose that’s the draw for me.

9) What kind of research did you do for this type of book?

I lived this book. I did research before getting the serval—took classes, read books—but the actual raising of the cat was the real training.  You find out things when you have a wild cat that no one thought to tell you before, or you find out that some of what you were told doesn’t apply to the individual cat you have.

10) What about your book makes it special?

Unlike other books about caring for wild pets, this one is written by someone who isn’t trying to sell anyone on the idea of buying or adopting one. I have no skin in the game; I’m not a wild animal breeder or seller.  This book is the unvarnished truth about what it’s like to turn your life over to another creature for 17 years. As I’ve said many times before, “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but I would never do it again.”  It’s hard. It’s very, very hard in a lot of ways.

11) What is your marketing plan?

I asked high-profile animal advocates to read the manuscript to find out if they would endorse it and tout the book in advance. Several of them wrote kudos extolling the book; Tippi Hedren wrote the Foreword. I set up a Facebook and Amazon SERVAL SON Debut page and asked everyone who wanted to get a copy to please buy it at Amazon on the same day, so the rush of sales on that day would run it up the flagpole. Many people agreed to buy on Sept 1st, so the title reached the #2 and #4 positions in two niche categories (animal rights/welfare and nature>fauna) within 24 hours, which made it “PR worthy,” so I capitalized on that.

Right now (I’m writing this in November, 2011), I’m reminding those who bought it and those who haven’t yet that, with the holidays right around the corner, it’s a good time to buy copies for loved ones who are cat or animal lovers.  I did an interview at The Authors Show on internet radio and bought the rights to post it wherever I want to, and I paid a bit more so it will remain an option at The Authors Show if people drop by to hear other authors talk about their books.  My sis threw me a book signing.  I try to have a copy available wherever I go, because the cover sells the book.  (A great cover is SO important!) I network with other writers. I network with other small business owners. I’m available to teach classes on animal care or to be interviewed or give a speech. Wherever animal people gather, I try to find ways to be present and valuable in some way. It’s an ongoing, every day kind of thing.

12) Where can people learn more about you and your work? My blog is at My book and business website is at You can befriend me on Facebook (Kristine M Smith, Tacoma WA). You can see my copywriting profile, portfolio, client feedback and certified rest results at You’ll also find me at or by doing a web search on “Kristine M Smith”.

13) What are your views on self-publishing versus traditional publishing?

I self-published the first five books I wrote. My present publisher wants me to bring the earlier books to her label, so I’ll be doing that in 2012. 

If you can’t get a publisher interested in what you have to offer, go ahead and self-publish. If it’s of benefit to enough people, you’ll bless them. If it’s of sufficient quality and importance to become “evergreen” (as several of mine are) when you finally do land a publisher, they may be interested in bringing the older ones along. 

Traditional publishing is a tough nut to crack unless you’re already a well-known individual.  And they keep a lot of the rights and pay peanuts unless you write a blockbuster and petition you to write another one.

Don’t be strait-jacketed by the thought that self-publishing is all “vanity” publishing.  A well-crafted book doesn’t have to always come from the big names in publishing. Just be sure that, when you self-publish, it’s absolutely the best you have to offer, or you’ll shoot yourself in the foot. Ask a trusted, knowledgeable friend or paid copy editor to proofread, critique and edit what you write if you don’t feel you can do it yourself  (if you think you’re too close to the subject to see the copy objectively and critically).

14) Do you have an agent and do you feel an agent is necessary for non-fiction?

I don’t have an agent. If I did, I might have more money (which would be really, really nice!), but since I’ve never tried it, I don’t have an opinion that amounts to a hill of beans on this one… other than be sure you get a reputable one if you do go that route!

15) Any tips for new writers hoping to write non-fiction?

Write what you’re most passionate about. That way the research becomes as much fun as the writing itself.

Thank you for this opportunity, Penny!  


  1. Thank you so much for this, Penny!

  2. I've worked with big cats and wolves in captivity.
    I understand the tremendous responsibility and commitment in caring for wild felines. This book puts much of that devotion in perspective with an
    honest sense of compassion for captive wild cats.

    Edward Smith
    Lion of Yelm

    1. Thank you for your insights and input, Edward! Much appreciated!

  3. My pleasure, Kristine. You are always a welcome guest.

  4. Penny, I have a new book out: SETTLE FOR BEST Satisfy the Winner You Were Born to Be. It's at Amazon, too. It sat at #1 for three days in the Motivational Self-Help category. People are loving it! Hope you love it, too!!

  5. Thanks for the update. If you'd like a return guest spot to talk about this, let me know.