Shawn Flynn is a proud cat lover. Since 2006, he has rescued several cats from the Wild and turned them into adored house Pets. These experiences eventually led him to write a heartwarming memoir titled “THE KITTY Who Rescued Me After I Rescued Him.”

Shawn spent more than twenty-five years working in marketing and research before turning his talents to authorship. His debut Book, “THE KITTY Who Rescued Me After I Rescued Him,” has won numerous awards and was endorsed by Gwen Cooper who is a New York Times Bestselling Author. Shawn’s book has been promoted on various pet-related media channels and publications.

Shawn is actively involved in many cat rescue organizations. All of this started after he moved into a new home and found a big orange stray cat named Kitty. When Shawn’s life took a depressing turn after the breakdown of his marriage, his relationship with Kitty (and, eventually, three other cats) saved him from utter despair.

Shawn Flynn recently granted an exclusive interview where he discussed his book and more.

Cats contests, and stories

Meagan Meehan (MM): You discovered your love of cats in 2006 when you met your first rescue, Kitty. Prior to that, had you had any substantial contact with animals?

Shawn Flynn (SF): I’ve been a huge animal lover my whole life, even raising five baby skunks one summer when their mother had been hit by a car in front of the house.

I just hadn’t had a lot of experience with cats, not any of my own anyway. We had family dogs when I was a kid growing up, but I never had any of my own pets as an adult. As a young adult, I lived in apartments that usually didn’t allow pets, and I was very busy with my education and my career so having the additional responsibility of pet ownership just wasn’t in the cards.

After moving to my current home and meeting Kitty, I developed a real appreciation for the relationship that one could have with a pet.

MM: When did you decide to write a story about Kitty?

SF: The story of how I met Kitty and the impact he had on me is one that I thought was unique and that I wanted to share with others (although I have come to learn that there are many others with similar stories of the positive impact a pet has had on them).

I didn’t start out writing a book; I simply wanted to document my thoughts and experiences and the favorable impact that Kitty and my other cats have had on me. After sharing it with some close friends and my family, they were touched and were the ones who encouraged me to see if I could publish my story. After it lay dormant for quite some time, I decided to dust it off and take another look at how I could share it with a broader audience.

MM: What was the process of getting the book published like and how did you go about getting it promoted in the media and entered into contests?

SF: There are essentially two ways to publish a book, there is the traditional method of getting an agent and having them help you pitch your story to the traditional publishers, or you can self-publish which is what I did.

Self-publishing has become very popular with authors in recent years, and there are many tools on the Internet to help with this effort. Unless you are an established author, celebrity, or widely-recognized expert in your field, self-publishing is a better alternative. Traditional publishing can sometimes take years with no guarantee of ever getting an offer from a publishing house.

Since I self-published my book, I am responsible for marketing and promoting it. Much of the media coverage I’ve received has been the result of me reaching out to newspapers and other media outlets, although, I’ve had many reach out to me as well. Once I got the ball rolling and started to get people interested, it kind of took on a life of its own.

Now, I get invited to cat shows, pet expos and other venues all over the country, although I only go to those that are within a reasonable driving distance. There is also the ‘being in the right place at the right time’ element, like how I met you at Pet Expo on Long Island. If I hadn’t been there, you wouldn’t have read my book and wanted to do a story on it. Getting my book into bookstores has also helped. I have had reporters reach out to me who have read my book and subsequently contacted me for an interview.

There are also many book-award contests available to authors. When I first published my book, I reached out to several and paid the entry fee to get it evaluated. Since I am on a budget and have limited marketing and promotional dollars, I stopped entering it into book-award competitions after winning a couple.

But last summer I received an email from Top Shelf Magazine that my book had been nominated for their annual book-award competition, all I needed to do was simply accept the nomination for it to be evaluated. Of course, I jumped on the opportunity. They announced the winners of their annual book awards in their December holiday issue and the book won first place in three categories that include Animals/Pets, Novella, and Relationships Non-Fiction.

Awards, experiences, and rescue organizations

MM: What was it like to hear you won awards for “THE KITTY Who Rescued Me After I Rescued Him”?

SF: Well, as I’m sure you can imagine, I was ecstatic! While I knew I had a good story that would resonate with many pet lovers, I have worked hard to get the word out about my book.

Getting recognized for my story is very rewarding. I now go to cat shows, bookstores and other venues where people come just to meet me. Last weekend when I was on Long Island, I met a woman who works at one of the local airports as a dog handler for the Department of Homeland Security. She came to the show just to meet me and was very excited when she did. Knowing that my pet rescue story has had that kind of impact on others is very satisfying.

MM: What kinds of experiences have been a published author afforded you and are you working on any new books now?

SF: I have had the opportunity to meet all kinds of new and different people since publishing my book. If I was still sitting in a cubicle in Corporate America as I did for over 25 years, I would not have had these experiences.

I travel all over promoting my book at many different venues. Nearly 80% of all households in the US have at least one pet where about half primarily identify as cat households and the rest as dog households, but there is also much overlap. My primary audience is cat lovers, but many dog enthusiasts identify with my story as well. While I have been working on my next book, promoting THE KITTY keeps getting in the way of this effort. But I hope to have my next book completed in the next few months.

MM: You are active in many cat rescue organizations, so what do you wish the general public knew more about caring for cats and living alongside feral populations?

SF: Caring for cats, or any pet for that matter, is a lot of work.

Not only do I take care of my indoor cats, but I also have several feral cats that live in my backyard that I feed. In addition to the work, buying supplies and taking my cats to the vet can get expensive. Pet ownership is a lifelong commitment that needs to be taken seriously. All too often people get a cute kitten or puppy but haven’t taken this into consideration. When the kitten or puppy grows up and isn’t so cute anymore, or the owner’s life circumstances change, and they move to a new home, for example, some of these animals end up abandoned or left at shelters. This is something that doesn’t only happen with cats and dogs but other animals as well. With Easter right around the corner, some people may be thinking about giving a bunny as a gift.

Weeks after Easter many bunnies are taken to shelters or are simply let out into the backyard to fend for themselves. People need to understand that adopting a pet is a lifelong commitment, the life of the pet.

MM: How many cats do you currently have and, since the end of the book, have you rescued any others and have you any final thoughts to mention?

SF: We currently have three cats - Gypsy, Tigger, and Phoebe. Tigger moved in three years ago with his Mom when she moved in with me. We got Phoebe this past fall from our local cat rescue group, Enfield Community Cat Project (ECCP). She was born in mid-September when a stray cat crawled under a local resident’s porch and had a litter of kittens.

One of my fellow ECCP members dug her and her siblings out from under the porch. She was muddy and full of fleas when she was rescued. I found out about her in November and that she needed a home. I saw a picture of her on the ECCP website and immediately fell in love. The following day I went to meet her and, not surprisingly, she came home with me. With the exception of the very early part of her life, she has never known hardship, unlike many other rescue cats. While she is still a kitten, she often torments Gypsy and Tigger, and us. Fortunately, Gypsy and Tigger tolerate her, and we just love her!

I love hearing from readers, and I encourage everyone who has a chance to check out THE KITTY to let me know what they think of the story.

My email address is shawnpflynn(at)yahoo(dot)com, and my Facebook handle is Shawn Flynn; my avatar is me with a black and white cat. I have a very large social media network, mostly cat lovers, and I post cute pictures or videos of my cats almost daily. Readers can also reach out to my Facebook author page at Shawn Flynn Author.