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As an on-demand title - copies are printed by iUniverse per customer request - Hayes has relied on consumer word of mouth (such as online comments from Amazon.com readers) and local recognition to spur sales. She is a former reporter for The Wilton Bulletin, a background that served her well in crafting the story, and worked for a prominent national animal rights protection organization, the spur for the novel's theme.
"I lived it, much of this book, for six and a half years," she says. "The campaigns are based on my own experience."
Hayes will read and discuss issues in the book this morning at a free author visit to Stamford's St. John's Episcopal Church at 11:30. The above "campaigns" refer to the struggle of her novel's protagonist, Eleanor Aqitaine Green, a reporter and divorcee, who tries to take the reins of People Against Animal Cruelty as it - and its overweening president - are losing steam.
Much of the causes described in the book were heavily researched for seven years, Hayes says, in addition to her experience with animal rights causes. Indeed, the focus of her protagonist's new, unifying message, the slaughter of farm animals for human consumption, led Hayes naturally through the past 20 years of her own life as a vegan but also to research sources such as the Library of Congress.
In the course of her road to publication, some of the larger research interests beyond the actions Eleanor takes (not wearing fur, even trying to rescue a circus elephant) were left out by Hayes, a not uncommon occurrence during the editorial process. Hayes says that the editorial advice she received, beyond encouragement from past colleagues, pared down the material so that the book became more focused on the story, or at least, blended the story more with the issues.
"The editorial review was great for direction," she says. "iUniverse said with the research material, it was too many points of view, and I decided to trim it. But I still have nightmares about what was taken out."
That speaks to Hayes' commitment, though feedback has been positive, and her book, thanks to iUniverse, is on sale outside the United States in the UK and Germany.
"Readers from my church and my family and friends, they all say this, 'I wouldn't say this if I didn't really mean it -- I can't put it down.' And a couple people told me it, 'You know when you don't wanna finish a book, so you read it slower. ...' "
Hayes was particularly pleased with another anecdote she heard from a reader who told her that she and her husband were thinking of becoming vegetarians. Hayes says that the woman told her that she thought for a moment when she was about to have a bite to eat and asked herself, "Do I really need to eat this sandwich?"
Publishing the book, however, going through the process of trying to find an agent and jumping through the hoops that publishing houses set up for first-time authors, was challenging. Ultimately, Hayes says, the process was too much.
"When it came time to find a publishing house, I heard that it was best to get an agent," she says. "They were the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing houses, but let's put it this way, some were -- at least -- courteous ... I had about 10 that said, 'This isn't the subject matter were interested in ... ' It gets to be an expensive little ordeal, and what I got back, in the end, was my own package (the biographical materials, chapters, etc. Hayes had sent). And that was the last straw."
It was a fellow writer, following up on an article about self-publishing houses that highlighted iUniverse in the New York Times, that encouraged Hayes to go down the self-publishing route.
As for her success in terms of sales, Hayes won't know exactly how well the book sold last month until the first week of May. (Ingram, the book's distributor, has about a two-month lag with its figures.) That might be less important than the author's motivation in terms of theme, however. Hayes sees "Animal Instinct" as a merger of message and plot.
"It's a matter of perception," she says. "I wanted to see it as a good story -- I'm a writer, and here's the cause. As with Upton Sinclair's book, 'The Jungle,' if someone could see things with my own eyes, then I could show what's going on out there. It's based on fact, and it's not propaganda. Seventy-five percent of our farms are factory farms ... And with all of the issues in the book, I had a lot to learn, and I thought that this was a good way to reach a lot of people who don't want to be reached. ... I was born a writer, and I liked being a journalist, and this is the eventual result. I always knew I had a book in me."
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While reading the novel I vacillated between wondering whether Dorothy Hayes and I had crossed paths (as she had accurately described a direct action in my life) and wishing that I'd read the novel a decade ago because her ideas would have given me a better result with my action.
Another lesson the novel eloquently writes about (and a lesson I learned the hard way), is this: if your goal is to help animals, in order to stay focused on the goal you will have to ignore some unpleasant people who are on your side. You constantly have to evaluate "What action will result in the greater good for animals?"
In conclusion, Animal Instinct is the one-in-a-hundred novel that I will read again.
A book review published in the Wilton Bulletin, Feb.9, 2006 By Lois H. Alcosser
Animal Instinct, a just-published novel by Dorothy H. Hayes, is based on her own experiences working with an animal protection group. A former Wiltonian who now lives in Stamford, Ms. Hayes spent six and a half years working for Friends of Animals Inc. (then based in Norwalk, now in Darien).
In the book, the organization is called People Against Animal Cruelty (PAAC), and the director is a tyrannical woman, the opposite of whom you'd expect to have such a job. But Ms. Hayes says her first book, published by iUniverse, is an exposé of what really goes on. "Animal rights pioneers had to have contentious personalities. They had to be tough. Like generals in battle, they focused on the war." The "war" consists of righting horrendous cruelty to animals.
Ms. Hayes described the efforts to ban steel-jaw leg-hold traps, which mangle animals' bodies, the euthanasia of more than five million "useless" stray dogs and cats in public shelters, puppy mills that deliver puppies to pet stores in overheated, filthy trucks, the death of hundreds of baby seals skinned for their fur, and the mutilation of male seals by castrating them to concoct so-called aphrodisiacs. According to Ms. Hayes, the main thrust now of the animal rights movement is exposing the slaughtering of "10 billion animals killed each year for human consumption."
Ms. Hayes is a vegan, and eats no meat or dairy products. "Once you stop eating meat, you become more sensitive to animal life, and then you give up the next thing and the next." She wears clothing and shoes of only man-made materials and says she feels privileged to be doing something to save animals. Ms. Hayes did a tremendous amount of research for the book, and is candid about the surprising intrigues, jealousies, territorial conflicts and politics of groups that are dedicated to animal rights and protecting them, but suffer from mismanagement and internal conflicts.
The main character of her novel, Eleanor Aquitaine Green ("a savvy reporter and survivor of a painful divorce [who] discovers her true calling is crusading for the animals") is based on her own life. In the book, her hometown is called Derbe, which is really Wilton, where Ms. Hayes lived with her family on Sugar Loaf Drive from 1976 to 1995. She actually was a reporter, for The Wilton Bulletin for a few of those years and then for The Hour. She began her job at Friends of Animals as staff writer and public relations director in January 1992. "Getting my job with Friends of Animals was a miracle because when I decided I wanted to be part of animal protection, I called my one contact, and immediately got the job."
Ms. Hayes seems to venerate animals to the very core of her being. Her interest began about 20 years ago, when she decided to stop eating meat. When she lived in Wilton, she joined the protests when a traveling circus came to town with animals on display and in performances, including a baby elephant held by shackles. In her book, Eleanor encounters a traveling circus, and protests by shackling herself in chains along the roadside. "This didn't really happen," the author said. "I wanted to, but they wouldn't allow me."
Animal Instinct is dedicated to Tyke and Lisa, two circus elephants that Ms. Hayes encountered and made into symbols of the exploitation of animals on display for human entertainment. While covering news in Wilton, among her many assignments was an in-depth series of articles on the controversial move to separate the town's Inland Wetlands Agency from the Planning and Zoning Commission, a decision she favored as a resident. She helped develop legislative campaigns in an effort to end leg-hold traps in Connecticut and deer hunting at a state park in Groton. Nationally, she generated interest in protests to end the aerial hunting of Alaskan wolves, among other campaigns. Recently on a trip to Disneyland with her family, Ms. Hayes did not visit Animal World.
What does Ms. Hayes think of the current deer situation in Wilton and granting permission for controlled deer hunts to decrease the burgeoning deer population? Her answer is definite. "Deer are part of the ecology," she said. "One of the reasons there are so many deer is because the Department of Environmental Protection cuts down so many trees. They want to keep herd numbers up so they can sell hunting licenses. People should plant things deer don't eat. Nature has a way of handling things. A bad winter would decimate many deer, and if people don't like deer they should move elsewhere."
Her husband, Arthur Hayes, has been a lawyer and an editor at the Wall Street Journal and is associate professor of communications at Fordham University. She has four children from a previous marriage and 14 grandchildren. "They're not vegans, but they're totally respectful of my beliefs. This past Thanksgiving, we had pasta, salad, and eggplant." In the book, there are also cameo appearances of people Ms. Hayes has admired. The editor of the weekly paper is Don Martlett (Greg Bartlett) and the editor of the Norfolk Hour (Norwalk Hour) is also modeled on her former editor at the paper.
The book is full of animal rights style acronyms: RUFFF (Rights Unlimited for Fur, Feather and Fin, TUSKS (Task Force United to Save Kindred Spirits), CARNJ (Carnage) (Citizens for Animal Rights in New Jersey), and more. "When I think of what's happening to animals, it hurts my heart," Ms. Hayes said. "And I hope the book shows people what's happening." Ms. Hayes plans to do her own marketing, and hopes to come to Wilton to promote the book in the near future.