A native Philadelphian, Shane Hayes earned his bachelor’s and his law degree from Villanova University, and studied for a year at Princeton Theological Seminary. He worked as a writer/editor for Prentice Hall and an attorney for the federal government. His personal essays have appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and other wide-circulation media. He is married, has four children, and lives in suburban Philadelphia. Pretty Girl Lost (formerly titled Family Man) was his first novel (not yet sold). The Last Dreamgirl, his second, will be published in spring of 2014 by Drake Valley Press.
His nonfiction book The End of Unbelief: A New Approach to the Question of God will be published by Leafwood Publishers in fall of 2014. His religious experience is multifaceted and gives him a rare perspective: He went from ardent Catholic (nearly a Trappist monk at seventeen), to militant atheist at twenty, to dilettante Hindu/Buddhist, to Pure Theist (a term he explains in the book), to a Christian studying for the ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary, to a man with such strong ties to both Protestant and Catholic Christianity that he can identify himself only as “a Christian.”
Shane's Own Story
PERSISTENCE PAYS 50
Years to a Breakthrough
At 15 Shane knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life: to write novels that would make an imprint on American literature. After college he saved enough to quit his job at 24 and write full-time. With no outline he plunged into a long novel that he left half-finished after 360 pages. He was good at story telling (writing scenes, dialogue, description) but had a problem with story making (developing a plot). He went back to his father's business with a searing sense of failure. He calls it his "midlife crisis at 25."
The decades passed. He had successful careers in real estate, business publishing, and law, but they were his livelihood. Writing was his passion, and he would always be a failure in his own eyes if he failed at that. He kept trying -- wrote three nonfiction books that were not published and some shorter things that were; but books were what mattered.
At last he went back to his first love, novel writing, and tried again. This time his approach was completely different. He would separate story telling from story making and concentrate on the latter before he did the former. He spent twelve years plotting and developing characters for a series of connected novels, family sagas. At 62 he retired from his legal job to write full time. Only then did the actual drafting -- writing the pages readers would see -- begin.
The first finished novel was so long that he broke it into two separate but related novels. After 600 rejections -- of those and of a nonfiction book he also wrote in retirement -- he had two books accepted within a month: The Last Dreamgirl (the second of the two novels) and his nonfiction work The End of Unbelief: A New Approach to the Question of God. He'll be 75 when they're published in 2014, fifty years after his book-writing efforts began.
Summing up his career Shane says: "At 15 I was proud to call myself an aspiring writer. By 30 the word 'aspiring' had become an embarrassment. By 50 it was a dead weight on my spirit. By 65 it was so humiliating that I avoided it and said my writing was a 'hobby,' like golf or tennis. What a triumph it is to say simply, unapologetically, 'I'm a writer.' After 60 years of aspiring I'll be a published author of two books -- with more to come. This 75-year-old rookie may get some hits."
COLORFUL EPISODES IN SHANE'S LIFE, all connected with writing or writers, foreshadowed his career as an author -- and kept him believing it was possible:
Meeting Merton: A meeting with Thomas Merton, the celebrated author, when Shane was seventeen and thinking of entering the Trappist monastery in Kentucky, where Merton was Master of Novices. Merton's profound influence on the youth, the boy's impressions of the man, and their conversation are recounted in The End of Unbelief.
Peale Power: Attending the Manhattan church at which Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, was pastor. Peale's eloquently proclaimed philosophy of positive thinking helped Shane survive years of adversity in his personal life. Peale quoted from one of Shane's newspaper articles in a speech to businessmen in Atlanta. In a letter he told Shane he had done so, said the article was "terrific" and that a request had been made for reprints.
The Theroux You Never Knew: Ten days spent on a Greek ship sailing to New York from Piraeus with a new college grad named Paul Theroux, when he and Shane were in their early twenties, both brimming with literary ambition, unpublished, and unknown. Paul recently referred to that trip as "when my real life began." After an exchange of letters they lost touch for forty years, while Paul became one of the most famous authors in the world and a legendary traveler. When Shane reached out for a helping hand, over that four-decade chasm, Paul grasped it and spoke a word on Shane's behalf that changed his life.
White House Recognition: In 1971 Shane wrote several political pieces that caused a stir in Philadelphia newspapers. One came to the attention of then president Richard Nixon, who had his Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman call Shane, tell him the president had enjoyed the article and was passing it around to his staff. Haldeman invited Shane to the White House for lunch with head speech writer Ray Price, who introduced him to prominent members of the president's staff: Haldeman, Colson, Buchanan, and Gergen.
Helping Holly: When Shane's daughter Holly was a senior in high school an English teacher required each student to have a parent explain reasons for imposing a certain kind of discipline on the child. The student would then write a rebuttal of the parent's reasons. Shane complied, thought his whimsical essay amusing, titled it The Vanishing Face of Refinement, and sent it to the Saturday Evening Post. They published it with a full-page color illustration by Paul Stahr. The text of it appears on this website.
Her Last and Finest Hour: When Shane's mother died he wrote an article about her and the affecting circumstances of her death for the obituary page of the Philadelpia Inquirer. He was disappointed that it was silently rejected. Three weeks later it appeared as the lead article on the Inquirer's op-ed page. It is now Part 4 of his book The End of Unbelief.