Author Interview: Robert Eggleton

It is my pleasure to present Robert Eggleton–author of Rarity from the Hollow. His novel was awarded a five-star review from Readers’ Favorite as well as a gold Badge of Approval from Awesome Indies!

roberteggleton[1]

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi, Jessy. Thanks for inviting me to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow. I’m a sixty-five year old, retired children’s psychotherapist. I live in Charleston, West Virginia. I earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1977 and have been involved in children’s advocacy for the last forty years.

Besides writing and reading for enjoyment, my hobbies include vegetable gardening, watching West Virginia University sports, movies, and I have an old truck that I LOVE. It’s a 1966 Dodge with the original slant-six engine — well, never mind the technicals. The truck needs a lot of work and it has been fun to restore, so much fun that I’m taking my time to make the fun last. BTW, I mentioned this model truck in my novel. lol

2. When did you start writing?
I grew up in an impoverished household and would write stories to entertain myself and others. It was free recreation for me and my family. I shared my stories with others in the neighborhood, such as clerks in stores and service station attendants (gas stations used to employ people to pump the gas – lol). In a way, I guess that it was an early model of networking. My stories got better and my audience grew. In the eighth grade I won the school’s short story writing competition and began to dream of getting my family out of poverty by becoming a rich and famous author.

Tragedy that I won’t go into struck my family and I stopped sharing my writings. They became dark, introspective, emotive…I’m sure that some of it was related to adolescence. I became heavily involved in the antiwar movement in college – a time when kids saw themselves as street fighters of a counter culture. I wrote material for handouts at war protests and then one day something clicked – I must have been reading Vonnegut at the time. I turned my anger into satiric comedy with a poem (“The White Machine” – a commode, lol) and the poem was published in a zine: The Purple Press. The next semester or so, and as part of a creative writing class assignment, another of my poems was published in the West Virginia Student Poetry Anthology. It was titled, “Our Real Warmth” and was one of several of my poems with the same title and themes (I know, I know, you’re not supposed to do that – use the same title for different poems but I figure that each of us has different real warmths). A version of this poem just won first place in an international science fiction poetry competition: http://wildcat.wsc.edu/clubs/willycon/zine/poetry/2015/Our_Real_Warmth.php

During but increasingly after the Vietnam War ended, I became more involved with children’s rights. For a very long time, very long, my fiction took a back seat to nonfiction. Sure, like most writers I dabbled with stories to reduce that compulsion, but my finished products were:

  • dozens of (mostly scathing) investigative reports on children’s programs published by the West Virginia Supreme Court;
  • a residential service model for housing abandoned kids in the community instead of in large institutions that was accepted into and distributed by the Child Welfare League of America Resource Library;
  • a model for reuniting runaway and homeless youth with their families nationally distributed by the U.S. Department of Justice;
  • research on kids bouncing from one foster home to the next and the impact of involving those kids in placement decisions that was published by a child welfare agency and presented at the 1983 National Association of Social Workers conference;
  • West Virginia’s first child fatality by maltreatment report as a member of its first Child Fatality Review Team (“Daniel’s Death” – this was a heart breaker to write – I cried so much that I couldn’t see the monitor) and distributed to all child protective services workers in the state;
  • And, other nonfiction that I’ll probably think of later, but you get the idea.

In 2002, I accepted a job as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center. While emotionally draining – working with kids who needed intensive treatment, many of whom had been victimized, some sexually – the position didn’t involve much writing (except exhaustive therapy notes, yuck!). By 2006 I couldn’t hold back my need to write any longer and I started writing fiction again. I submitted a fictional / satirical essay (SciFi) to a print magazine and it was published by Wingspan Quarterly (“I Found God in Cyberspace”).

This early success bolstered my drive, but it was also a confusing time for emerging writers: electronic vs. print. This period was almost a war with hot debates, etc. I wrote a short story next, young adult literary science fiction, that was published in another print magazine – Beyond Centauri (“Lionel” – it used an off-world setting to address child poverty in the U.S.). Both of these magazines subsequently went under as the new electronic age took over. I know that the first magazine can still be ordered because I stumbled across it while surfing, but I’ve not looked for the other since I have a copy of it, as well. (If interested, contact me and I’ll email you a scanned copy of the story.)

3. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
Part of my job at the mental health facility was the facilitation of group therapy sessions. One day in 2006, a skinny little girl not only disclosed detail about her victimization, but continued to speak of her hopes and dreams for the future. Her resilience was inspiring to everyone. Before the end of that work day I had a protagonist and a rough outline of Rarity from the Hollow in my head – a powerful female protagonist who doesn’t have an ounce of sex appeal, doesn’t carry a sword or light saber, and who is destined to save the universe, her own family first, of course. While Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, is a composite of many children that I’ve met over the years, her core is the little girl who sat around the table from me during group therapy that day in 2006.

I submitted the first manuscript of the story to a new eBook publisher six months later. After another six months of editing by mailing the paper manuscripts back and forth – a lot of postage – the first version of Rarity from the Hollow was published. To promote it, I wrote another short story that was published in Atomjack Science Fiction Magazine (“Stainless Steel” – adult literary science fiction addressing child maltreatment, adolescent mental health treatment, and an alien assisted murder plot by Lacy Dawn and her best friend, Faith). A month later, both the eBook publisher and the magazine closed shop. Honest, it wasn’t my fault. “Stainless Steel” was reprinted by an Australian author on her blog a few months ago and can be read here:  https://racheltsoumbakos.wordpress.com/2015/08/07/freebie-stainless-steel-by-robert-eggleton/

The current version of Rarity from the Hollow was published by Dog Horn Publishing, a traditional small press located in Leeds. There is a difference between the two, but as this novel approaches republication as a second edition projected for July 2016, I’m still insecure about whether it has become too strong in forcing readers outside of their comfort zones. The social commentary is more frank and honest now, perhaps even offending the prudish. The novel has received many glowing reviews by book critics and experienced book reviewers, otherwise the publisher would not be interested in investing in the upcoming second edition. But, some readers have reported that the early tragedy was too harsh for them to easily get to the subsequent satire and comedy.

I guess that no book can be for everybody, so I decided to stop second-guessing myself based on book reviews. Here’s an excerpt of a book review published on 6-11-16 and which totally eliminated my last minute self-assessment as an author and his debut novel:

“…The best thing about “Rarity” is the writing. It feels timeless, classic and mature in a way that would ensure its longevity if more people knew about it. I would even say it could be read in a college setting both for the craft itself and its unique brand of storytelling. The premise was brilliant and brought a distinctive approach to the adult-fairytale/modern-retelling sub-genre…” — Tay LaRoi https://cheapreads.wordpress.com/

4. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
The title, Rarity from the Hollow, came from a scene in the novel. I don’t want to spoil anything, so this may sound a little vague. Lacy Dawn’s team had returned from their first visit to planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop), the central location of universal governance established through a long standing conflict between extreme consumerism and socialism. On first read, their adventure is “silly” and comedic, so forget about politics for a minute. Anyway, the team brought home to the hollow a spaceship full of merchandise that they loaded into the barn. They didn’t know what most of the items were or were for….

Because the barn was needed and the stuff was in the way, Lacy decided to have a yard sale. She advertised on the internet: Rarity from the Hollow, Items of…. The yard sale turned into a Woodstock type event – pot smoking, music, VWs stuck in creeks…. Just read it and you will understand. Sorry.

5. Does your story have a moral?
No, I wouldn’t say that Rarity from the Hollow actually has a moral to the story. There are many messages, but that doesn’t mean the messages will be interpreted by one reader the same as interpreted by another. I don’t write or want to read anything that is “preachy.” Heck, I don’t even think that religious literature, like the pamphlets that one finds on the floors of public toilet stalls, should be so preachy. I wouldn’t want to touch such content, even if it would have been delivered under more sanitary conditions. I want to write about important issues that one person may think support a particular position but the next reader finds the opposite. I don’t have the answers to the most important questions and challenges that humans face.

The narrative of Rarity from the Hollow addresses social issues: poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, local and intergalactic economics, mental health concerns – including PTSD experienced by Veterans and the medicinal use of marijuana for treatment of Bipolar Disorder, Capitalism, and touched on the role of Jesus: “Jesus is everybody’s friend, not just humans.” These messages do not advocate for anything specific.

One of my personal truths is that enough is not being done to prevent child abuse / exploitation in the world. Author proceeds have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia: http://www.childhswv.org/

6. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
The main characters in Rarity from the Hollow are:

  • Lacy Dawn, the preadolescent protagonist, an empowered victim of child maltreatment;
  • Jenny, her downtrodden mother who learns how to be strong from her daughter;
  • Dwayne, her war damaged father who is a villain until cured of PTSD and who never fully acknowledges his wrongdoings;
  • Tom, a born-rich successful businessman with Bipolar Disorder who moves to the hollow to escape city life and who distributes marijuana;
  • Faith, who plays an annoying and comical ghost most of the story after she is murdered by her father (no scenes, just reference to her having been sexually abused);
  • Brownie, the family mutt who is the only character in the story with enough natural empathy skills to communicate with a vile enemy in order to solve the threat to the universe;
  • The two managers of Shptiludrp, brothers who are so much alike except for their political views that have kept them estranged for millennia (don’t want to spoil here, sorry).

I love Lacy Dawn and so have other people. Here’s an example:

“…When Eggleton requested a review of Rarity from the Hollow, I was hesitant to accept. I usually do not read or review books that discuss child abuse or domestic violence; however, I was intrigued by the excerpt and decided to give it a shot. I am glad that I took a risk; otherwise, I would have missed out on a fantastic story with a bright, resourceful, and strong protagonist that grabbed my heart and did not let go. It is not every day that I find a kindred spirit in a book, but I found one in Lacy Dawn! I admired her courage, her imagination, and her intelligence; I could go on for days about the excellent job that Eggleton did in developing Lacy Dawn’s character….” http://www.onmykindle.net/2015/11/rarity-from-hollow.html

However, I’m a little disappointed that Lacy Dawn let her maltreatment reduce her ability to speak empathetically to others. She didn’t become hardened, but logical and goal oriented. This happens so often in real-life child abuse cases – dissociative, desensitization…. She loved Faith, but never spoke to her gently, which may have been in Faith’s best interests after all.

I hated Dwayne the first part of the novel, and never became fond of him although he did have admirable attributes regarding hard work and providing for his family’s material needs, and a sense of larger duty. Tom, oh I don’t know – I guess that I like him okay. He’s competent. Jenny, well, she wants to be a good mother but even after she is healthy she becomes overly consumed with romance with her husband. And, Faith, why didn’t she tell somebody what her father was doing to her? I understand, unfortunately, having met so many other children just like her in real life.

Bottom line, I didn’t create any of the characters so that readers would fall in love with them – for me that’s irrelevant. My favorite character is Brownie – he’s totally cool, funny, and always loving.

7. What is your favorite book genre?
I read in all genres. Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit that I even read romance novels. I don’t read erotica, not that I’m opposed to it. I think that I’ve just lost interest. (Maybe I should go see a doctor? lol) I’ve become a little bored with YA teenage angst, but a good story will still pull me in. I haven’t been dazzled by hard science fiction for a while, but that’s probably because technology in real life is moving so fast that I’m dazzled by it.

So far in fiction, I write literary speculative and hope to expand into other genre bending projects. However, I don’t think that I will ever want to write anything using a lot of flowery adjectives and adverbs. It’s just not me. And, I like to write shorter names for characters than found in some, especially fantasy novels with complicated lineages. I’m just getting started as an author, so we’ll see!

8. Any project in the works?
Yes, I’ve always got something going on. I’ve submitted a more academic type essay to a journal that is pending consideration, and a YA story for older teens. The next full-length Lacy Dawn Adventure is Ivy – how far will a child go to save a parent from addiction? It’s an adult novel. I’ve already told you about the projected republication of Rarity from the Hollow, so I’ll be spending a lot of time in promotions instead of writing, but that’s just part of the entirety of being an author.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books – they last longer.

2. Car or motorcycle?
Car, but do you guys know about Bikers Against Child Abuse? This is an international organization with bikers going to court with abused kids to help represent best interests as Court Appointed Special Advocates. I LOVE this organization. I bet most of your have a chapter nearby. They always have events going on.

3. Ebook or physical book?
I now accumulate eBooks, in part, because I’ve got no more room in my small house for physical books. lol I live in a library.

4. Nights out or nights in?
I mostly like nights in these days, but if there is something special I don’t hesitate to jump into it. I hate bars.

5. Living in the city or living in the country?
I would love to live in the country but at my age I need easy access to medical services. I do own a farm over an hour away from the closest 911 responder. I miss it, a bunch.

6. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telekinesis. Sometimes it’s best not to know what others are thinking.

7. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
The future.

8. Making a phone call or sending a text?
Text.

9. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Camping.

10. Working in a group or working alone?
Depends on the project – either is cool.

11. Losing all of your money or losing every picture you’ve ever taken and every picture that has ever been taken of you?
Losing money would be preferable to losing pictures – I don’t have that much money to lose anyway. lol

12. To find true love or to win the lottery?
I’ve been married for forty-five years, so I want the money.

13. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Human

14. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?
Staying awake – I’m used to insomnia.

15. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
I’d give up chocolate before coffee. I live on coffee. Maybe that’s why I have insomnia sometimes. lol

Thank you for joining us, Robert!
Readers: want to connect with Robert? You can find him on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook (author page and personal profile), and Google+. Also, be sure to check out his website. Want to purchase a copy of Rarity from the Hollow? Click here to check out the eBook’s particulars. Click here to check out those of the physical book.

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