PHOENIX (AP) — Dr. John Carr may treat animals for a living, but dogs and cats don't loom large in the novels he writes on the side. Instead, he counts on ghosts, immortality and even infidelity to provoke thought.
"I write as an escape for me, and I don't want to be writing about work," said the Avondale veterinarian, who works at Warner Vista Animal Hospital in Gilbert.
Writing as J. Maynard Carr, he has self-published two thrillers, "The Second Floor" and "Cross-Linked," and is working on a third, which he calls "a naughty book."
In "The Second Floor," main character Kelly Avery escapes from her abuser and moves into a house that's haunted by Lenora, a ghost who suffered domestic violence in her previous life. They try to help each other in the fast-paced and captivating tale.
"Cross-Linked" is about a pharmaceutical tycoon who uses his wealth to develop a gene-therapy device that he hopes will help him achieve immortality.
In the novel-in-progress, Carr tackles promiscuity and drug addiction. "It's about infidelity and the struggles that it causes for a young woman," he said. "All of the characters are bad people, and I have never written a book like that before. I'm a good guy; I try to be a good guy. I get to step out of myself."
During his long commute between the West Valley and Gilbert, Carr mulls his plots and the particular actions of his characters. But once he pulls into the parking lot, he said, he discards his novelist's cap to prepare for the day's work ahead. Unless it's a slow day, when he may pick up his story in-between his appointments, he does not write at work.
And slow days are rare.
Warner Vista Animal Hospital mainly treats dogs and cats, with the odd ferret, rabbit or bird. Carr sees 15-20 patients daily and performs four or five surgeries each week. Spays and neuters top the list, with dentistry and cancer treatment following behind.
Carr has a special interest in treating cancer, but said that stricken pets cannot usually be saved.
"It's something where we can give them a good quality of life and extend the time of their life and have them do well. When you're treating cancer, you almost always lose when you're treating pets. That's OK because we were able to help them," he said.
It's also difficult to turn things around for birds, who can't communicate their illness until they are almost dead, he said.
Warner Vista Animal Hospital has a clientele of about 25,000, which works well for the veterinarian-author's efforts to market his novels. Magazine articles about Carr's books are displayed in the reception area.
"Marketing is the key. I am fortunate because I can market my book to the people who come in here. Most of the people who buy my books are my clients. I have one client who has bought more books than my mother has," he said.
Marnie Schubert, public information officer for Queen Creek and a Gilbert resident, takes her two dogs and a cat to Carr.
"For a guy who clearly understands how to communicate with the animals he helps, he also has an amazing ability to weave human nature into the stories he tells," Schubert said, adding that she once skipped dinner because she was trying to finish reading "The Second Floor."
"Dr. Carr has a writing style that really engages the reader and keeps the pages turning. I especially appreciate that he focuses on strong female characters who really come to life in the story," she said. "He creates a world in his books that is very easy for the reader to step into and visualize."
His wife, Lisa, a school nurse, is supportive of his writing, too, as are his three children ages 12-18.
Despite his literary talents, Carr plans to stay on as a veterinarian and keep adding to his 25 years of experience.
"That's my first passion; that's what I truly love to do," he said. "I write for fun, and the fact that I can make a little money from a hobby is a really cool thing. Even if I were to become wildly successful as an author I think I will continue to be a veterinarian."
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