I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Eggleton, author of Rarity from the Hollow. Robert is recently retired & his novel has received glowing reviews. It was originally printed in 2012, but will be reprinted this year. The novel is described as social science fiction & is intended for any age, but contains vivid & realistic scenes that are not for the faint of heart. Purchase links & author contacts are at the bottom of this interview, but you can jump to them by clicking here.
The novel follows Lacy Dawn, a true daughter of Appalachia, & then some. She lives in a hollow with her worn-out mom, her Iraq War disabled dad, & her mutt Brownie, a dog who’s very skilled at laying fiber optic cable. Lacy Dawn’s android boyfriend has come to the hollow with a mission. His equipment includes infomercial videos of Earth’s earliest proto-humans from millennia ago. He was sent by the Manager of the Mall on planet Shptiludrp (Shop ’till You Drop): he must recruit Lacy Dawn to save the Universe in exchange for the designation of Earth as a planet which is eligible for continued existence within a universal economic structure that exploits underdeveloped planets for their mineral content. Lacy Dawn’s magic enables her to save the universe, Earth, &, most importantly, her own family.
Hi Robert, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
You’re welcome Alysyn. Thanks for providing an opportunity for me to tell your readers about my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, and why reading it is an enjoyable way to help prevent child abuse.
- Tell us a little about yourself & your background. What inspired you be become a writer?
I was born into an impoverished family in West Virginia. My alcoholic and occasionally abusive father suffered from PTSD. He had been captured by the Nazis during WWII and suffered from night terrors. My mother did the best she could, but I had to begin working as a child to feed my family. I started paying into the U. S. Social Security fund at age twelve, dreamed of a brighter future for my family, and have continued work for the next fifty-two years.
In the 8th grade, I won the school’s short story contest. “God Sent” was about a semi truck driver so consumed with theological debate that he caused a terrible accident. As it often does, however, life got in the way my dream of becoming a rich and famous author. I worked and went to school, never finishing any more stories that I’d started, mostly because I was just too exhausted. I started college in 1969, and except for a poem published in the state’s student anthology and another poem published in a local alternative newspaper, my creative juices were spent writing handouts for civil rights and anti-war activities, and on class assignments. I graduated in 1973 with a degree in social work.
Afterward, I worked in the field of adolescent substance abuse treatment as I attended graduate school. My creative writing was still on hold. After earning an MSW in 1977, I focused on children’s advocacy for the next forty years. My heartfelt need to write fiction was dissipated somewhat by the publication of social service models, grants, research, investigative and statistical reports about children’s programs, child abuse, and delinquency.
I recently retired as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center. It was an intensive day program Most of the kids, like myself, had been traumatized, some having experienced extreme sexual abuse. One day at work in 2006 it all clicked together and the Lacy Dawn Adventures project was born — an empowered female protagonist beating up the evil forces that victimize and exploit others to get anything and everything that they want.
While my protagonist is a composite character based on real-life kids that I’d met over the years while working at the mental health center, one little girl was especially inspiring. Her name is Lacy Dawn. Rather than focusing on her victimization, she spoke of dreams – finding a loving family that respected her physically and spiritually. She inspired me to make my own dream come true, to write fiction and I haven’t stopped writing since I first met her that day during a group therapy session.
- Tell us a little about your latest book. What’s it about?
That’s a great question, especially since Rarity from the Hollow at first glance sounds like a novel written for young adults. I don’t know if you remember, but Robert Heinlein, a grandfather of science fiction, used juvenile voice to address very serious gender and race issues of his day. So, I’m not paving a new road in literature with my work.
Let me start the answer to this question by telling you what Rarity from the Hollow is not. My story is not mainstream science fiction for Young Adults. Teens may be exposed to much more harsh content than contained in my novel on television shows, by watching movies or playing video games, but I write to an adult audience. This novel contains social commentary and satire. Also, Rarity from the Hollow is not for anyone of any age who is prudish or fainthearted. While it doesn’t contain much profanity or any gratuitous sex, some early scenes are realistic, described honestly and with dialogue that corresponds.
I don’t want to spoil anything for its readers. Rarity from the Hollow is full of contrasts: harsh reality amplifies outrageous fantasy, bitterness blends into acceptance and empowerment, tragedy inspires comedy, and a biography of a victim becomes a science fiction story. It does not fit neatly into a genre, such as romance, horror or even speculative fiction.
The protagonist, Lacy Dawn, is the last person on Earth that one would expect to be charged with saving the universe. The Evil was the original spawn of the human race and now so universally despised that any homemaker would be embarrassed to admit its occupancy. I know that this sounds vague, but it’s difficult to avoid spoilers.
This novel is sweet but frank with no holds barred. It addresses the complexities of real life, but presents sensitive topics that might trigger emotional distress with comic relief. My intent was for readers to enjoy the experiences that I created with everyday words and colloquialism, but not to gloss over realism in the way that some young adult titles accomplish.
In a nutshell, Rarity from the Hollow is about a traumatized little girl who learns to be the Savior of the Universe with the help of her mentally ill family and friends. It’s up to readers to decide which scenes are dissociative as a result of Lacy Dawn’s severe traumas and which scenes are pure fantasy and science fiction. I hope that readers take away the sense that action empowers one to overcome any real or imagined tragedy.
- What else have you written?
Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. The sequel, Ivy, is almost ready for editing by the publisher. Prior to the novel, three short stories were published in: Beyond Centauri, Wingspan Quarterly, and Atomjack Science Fiction Magazine. In retirement, I’m hopeful to have a very long writing career.
- What are you working on at the moment?
Unfortunately, I’ve mostly been involved in self-promotion of Rarity from the Hollow and learning about the literary marketplace. I’ve learned that cross-genre is a lot more difficult to market than other works. I’ve learned that there is a huge disparity between informal censorship by book reviewers and magazines concerning film vs. written literature, with the film being significantly more liberal. For example, when the movie, E.T. included the adolescent insult “penis breath” there wasn’t a stir. It was seen by millions of kids. But, young adult stories seem to have very stringent guidelines that are a poor fit to the language that real kids use everyday at school. A reprint of Rarity from the Hollow will be released in the fall of 2015. The stock of paperback copies is gone. So, I’ve been checking everything again before the reprint. I submitted a satirical essay to a journal and am awaiting a reply. I submitted a story to a magazine that is pending.
- Do you draw inspiration from anything specific?
My ideas come from my own personal and professional experiences, supplemented by the experiences of children that I’ve worked with over the decades. I write what I know, with minimal research to verify technical detail because I write social science fiction for which I am more than qualified, as opposed to hard science fiction that would take a lot of technical research, and probably considerably more technical aptitude than I possess.
- What famous authors inspired you the most?
I’ve always had eclectic tastes in fiction. Mark Twain’s characters inspired me as a child to work hard to support my family. Without that inspiration, I have little doubt that I would have ended up on the “wrong side of the tracks.” Episodes of male incarcerations were an accepted way of life in my family, especially on my mother’s side although my father did his time in prison too. Tom Sawyer gave me an alternative to believe in beyond what seemed like an in and out of jail existence. I probably should have paid a little closer attention, however, because I served some time behind bars too, but it was during the hippie counterculture days so it was cool.
With respect to writing, I’m not sure that you have enough bandwidth for me to make a complete list of inspirations, so here’s a few. Of course, Heinlein’s determination as an aspiring author after having been rejected so many times inspired my own persistence. Also, the way he progressively treated racial and gender issues in his fiction at a time when science fiction was regarded a pulp for kids inspired me to consider incorporating social commentary into my fiction.
Ferlinghetti, the poet of the Beat Generation, showed me how to enjoy my anger about political and societal issues. Similarly, Vonnegut’s anger in Breakfast of Champions helped me stay strong as a children’s advocate and as a writer, and how to continue to have fun experimenting with my writing style outside of commonly accepted structures and formats.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Harry Potter series reinforced my faith in the potential of adolescent morality and the future of the world, which was comforting. Watership Down by R. Adams was such a sweet adventure that some of this element just is a necessary ingredient of even the scariest or saddest story. I want my writing to be as hopeful regardless of barriers. What the point in bumming people out?
The versatility in cross-genre and the use of humour by Bradbury – I have enjoyed everything that he’s written. It taught me that people finish what they read because they are experiencing enjoyment. Recreational reading is not like a homework assignment.
Dean Koontz has been masterful and can give me enjoyable nightmares. I’m one of those people who learned how to enjoy having the crap scared out of me.
Nora Roberts knows how to get me in a romantic mood. Yes, older guys can still at least remember romance and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Males do read romance novels.
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by D. Adams and Another Roadside Attraction by Robbins pushed me into the wilder side of writing regardless of censorship, as did the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics. It’s a place that I really like to visit, but would not necessarily want to live there full-time.
Stephen King’s use of everyday horror convinced me that alarming scenes can be created by using almost anything as a prop. At home, we have a game. We name common household objects that could be converted into a dangerously exciting killing machine – the more gross the better. We are inspired!
- I love a lot of those authors as well. I believe your work has even been compared to Vonnegut’s. For a fun question, ideally, which actress would you like to see playing the lead character of your novel in the movie version?
Quvenzhane Wallis would make a great Lacy Dawn in a movie.
- You mentioned something about the prevention of child abuse. What does that have to do with your novel?
Author proceeds from Rarity from the Hollow have been donated to a nonprofit children’s agency where I worked in the 1980s, Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. I was the Director of Shelter Services back then and my job was the establishment and operation of a state-wide network of emergency shelters for kids. However, this agency delivers a continuum of services that assists maltreated children, including adoption and support services that strengthen biological families. It has been in operation since 1896. For more information: http://childhswv.org
I made the commitment to raise funds for the prevention of child abuse in my home state when I was working full-time and my family had more income. Today, since I’ve retired, my wife and I live on a low, fixed income. She gets Social Security and a small pension as a retired Chemist. However, if I would take back that promise to help abused children now, for any reason, I would feel so badly about myself that no amount of money could buy back my self-esteem. Half of author proceeds will continue to be donated to this cause. The other half will go into developing more Lacy Dawn Adventures, to raise more funds to help kids. I’ve been in this field for decades and believe that child maltreatment is at the root of many social problems, including crime, mental illness, poverty, substance abuse….
- What book(s) are you reading at present?
I’m re-reading Letters of Aldous Huxley, but I have a few others in different genres open. One book that I’ve recently finished but that I consider to be a resource for life is Warrior Patient by Temple Williams. It’s about facing medical problems and the impact of positive attitude on health and healing as one interacts with medical professionals.
- If a reader writes to you, will you reply?
A link to my personal email is at the bottom of the Lacy Dawn Adventures home page. I will reply to queries, but the detail of the reply will depend on what’s going on in my life. I’m very busy lately, which will mean that I have less time to spend on this project.
Public Author Contacts: