Friday, 10 July 2015

Interview With Robert Eggleton

Today I have a great interview with talented writer Robert Eggleton, author of Rarity from the Hollow. Enjoy...

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

Thanks for the invitation. I was born in 1951, the oldest son of an impoverished family in West Virginia. We received government surplus food called commodities. My alcoholic and occasionally abusive father had PTSD from WWII. It was called shell shock back then.
My mom did the best she could, but somebody had to support my family. I worked odd jobs until I got a minimum wage one in a drug store when I was twelve. I’ve made payments into America’s Social Security fund for the next fifty-two years.
In the 8th grade, I won the school’s short story contest: a redneck semi truck driver became so obsessed with the conflict between Jewish vs. Christian theology that he lost concentration on the road and caused a terrible accident. I decided that I wanted to be a writer and dreamed of getting rich. As it often does, life got in the way. Between school and work, I was too exhausted to write any more stories until recently.
I continued to work at various minimum wage jobs during high school and college. Work, antiwar activities and school kept me too busy to write stories, so I wrote poems on scraps of paper. One was published in the state’s 1972 West Virginia Student Poetry Anthology. Another was published in a local zine. I graduated in 1973 with a degree in social work and received an MSW from WVU in 1977.
After college, I focused on children’s advocacy. The Vietnam War and the draft had ended. My new political cause became children’s rights and welfare. I was involved in this emotionally charged work for the next forty years. It supplanted my need to write fiction. Instead, I wrote manuals, research, investigative, and statistical reports. 
In 2003, I became a children’s psychotherapist at our local community mental health center. It was an intensive program for kids with very severe emotional disturbances. One day at work in 2006, during a group therapy session, I met the real-life role model for my fictional protagonist. Lacy Dawn had been severely abused, but was so resilient that it was inspiring to everybody who met her, staff and her peers alike.
I started writing fiction. Three short Lacy Dawn Adventures have been published in magazines.  My debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, was released in 2012 by Dog Horn Publishing, a small traditional press located in Leeds. In May 2015, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist so that I could concentrate on writing fiction that introduces Lacy Dawn to the rest of the world.  

Can you tell us about your book, Rarity from the Hollow?

Sure, but I don’t want to spoil anything for its readers. This novel, similar to the truck driver’s introspections that I mentioned before, 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.

This novel was written for an adult audience, but does not have graphic sex scenes, a lot of violence or any of the other similar content that one might assume to be attributable to an Adults Only classification. It is sweet but frank and honest with no holds barred. It addresses the complexities of real life for some people, 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 YA titles accomplish.

In a nutshell, Rarity from the Hollow is about a little girl who learns to be the Savior of the Universe with the help of her family and friends. It’s up to readers to decide which scenes are dissociative as a result of Lacy Dawn’s traumas and which scenes are pure fantasy and science fiction.

Your book integrates serious social issues into its narrative. What led you to write a novel that included these issues?

The short answer to your question is tradition. Historically, fiction has fueled social activism, debate, and the adoption of evolving or devolving social policy. Frankly, while I've read nonstop for decades, when I started writing it, I was not aware of the big debate in the marketplace about whether fiction should or should not be pure escapism. I now belong to a writer’s group in cyberspace with members who debate this very issue. The focus seems to be on whether the inclusion of serious topics in fictional works would help or hurt sales.

Did the GLBTQ titles increasingly being released, and the popularity of television shows such as Modern Family, influence the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that same-sex marriage was a Constitutional right? I don’t know and the answer wouldn’t make any difference to my products. I simply write what I know, what I’ve experienced in my own life, and hope that readers enjoy the comical slant that I place on complex issues.  

I do believe that all artists have an opportunity to have a positive or negative impact on society. Artists aspire to achieve an audience. They need one as much as they need oxygen or food. There are many examples of fund-raising campaigns for various wonderful causes put together by popular artists. It was in remembrance of George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh that I have donated author proceeds to a child abuse prevention program in West Virginia.     

Why did you decide to use the SF/Fantasy genre as the underpinning of the novel, as opposed to another genre?

I selected the SF/F backdrop for this story because it was the best fit by process of elimination. The novel also has elements of horror, mystery, romance, self-help, and thriller. It is not a good example of the historical or western genres, although the social issues that we talked about before have been present throughout history, including in the Wild West.

In today’s reality the systems in place to help maltreated children are woefully inadequate. I felt that the literary, biographical, nonfiction genres wouldn’t work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it.

I felt that the story had to be hopeful. I wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of folks using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity. I didn’t think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre.  That almost never actually happens in real life, so that genre was too unrealistic as the primary. There was already enough horror in the story, so that genre was out too. What could be more horrific than child abuse?

The protagonist and her traumatized teammates needed fantastical elements to achieve empowerment. But, as in life, one cannot overcome barriers to the pursuit of happiness by simply imagining them away. That’s where the science fiction came into play. It provided a power source. I tied the science fiction to Capitalism because in today’s reality it will take significant financial investment by benefactors to significantly improve the welfare of children in the world. Our governments are unlikely to do so in the near future because of the politics.

What did you find most challenging about writing Rarity from the Hollow?

Writing comes easy for me, but the third scene in the story was especially challenging. It was a domestic violence scene that triggered my own psychological distress. Tears blurred my vision each time that I reworked it. The only other challenges were the typical ones that all writers of anything experience, such as proofreading what you intended to write instead of what’s actually on the page. After I submitted a story to a publisher in the early morning hours of July 4, 2014, I still found typos that I’d missed.

Your book is also, in part, a satire. Was that a conscious choice to offset the more stark aspects of the novel, or did it evolve as a natural process of writing? 

I’ve always loved to read the puns, the double entendres, and satire in the works of others. I’m sure that had a big impact on what I write. Some of the satire in this novel evolved as a natural process, while other sections were inserted because I had found the narrative in need of a lighter tone to offset stark aspects. If I found a place during the drafts that I felt was too “heavy” for me to read as its writer, I figured that it would be way to much for the reader.

Do you having any writing inspirations or favourite authors?

I’m not sure that you have enough bandwidth for me to make a complete list of inspirations and favourites, so here’s a few. 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 experiment 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. 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. The versatility in cross-genre and the use of humour by Bradbury had to have been a subliminal inspiration, especially now that I think about it. Dean Koontz has been masterful. 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. And, Stephen King’s use of everyday horror convinced me that alarming scenes can be created by using almost anything as a prop.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Is this a trick question? Nobody can always do what they like to do, but the activity that I like most is reading. Of course, there are other activities that I enjoy, such as watching WVU sports, gardening, home repairs, family events, and my son, he’s 41, always has something new and fun to show me, usually from the internet.

What’s next for you?

Hah! This is another trick question.  I will continue to write fiction for eternity.

Author Bio:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children's advocate for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from 1982 through 1997. Today, he is a recently retired psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia:

Find out more about Robert Eggleton and his books and these websites:

Rarity from the Hollow

Lacy Dawn's father relives the Gulf War, her mother's teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage -- an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It's up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn't mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire.

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.”
—Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.”
—    Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review

About the Author: I recently retired after 52 years of contributions into the U.S. Social Security fund so that I could write and promote my fiction. I’m a former mental health psychotherapist in West Virginia. But, after coming home drained from working with child abuse victims, I didn't have the energy left to begin its self-promotion. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program in my home state. A listing of services that are supported can be found here:  

The Press: Dog Horn Publishing is a traditional small press located in Leeds. Adam Lowe is the owner.  The press also showcases other semi avant garde titles and publishes a popular magazine for the GLBTQ community (Vada).  

Purchase links:

Link for excerpt of the 1st Chapter:


Robert Eggleton said...

Unsolicited Top 100 Amazon Book Reviewer posted a five star review of Rarity from the Hollow today: "...This is one brilliant book and Highly Recommended for all readers – for entertainment and reinforcement of much needed values." 9-18-15

Robert Eggleton said...

This novel is currently in the process of being republished. The 2016 link for Amazon is:

A. F. Stewart said...

Good to know. Thanks for the update.

Robert Eggleton said...

Thanks again for the amazing spotlight on Rarity from the Hollow, an adult literary science fiction novel. A lot has happened since the post and I decided to update you and your readers.

The novel is currently in the process of being republished by Dog Horn Publishing, a traditional small press in Leeds. The 2016 Amazon link is:

Following are some of the highlights about the novel since we last communicated:

As you know, the novel was found by the editor of Atomjack Science Fiction Magazine to be laugh-out-loud funny in some scenes. Long-time science fiction book
critic, Barry Hunter, closed his review, "...good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find." http://thebaryonreview.blogspo......

A former Editor of Reader's Digest found that, "Rarity from the Hollow is the most enjoyable science fiction that I've read in several years."

Rarity from the Hollow was referred to as a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and awarded a Gold Medal by Awesome Indies: "...Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to's a funny book that most fans of sci-fi will thoroughly enjoy."

With respect to the story's treatment of tough social issues, this reviewer said:
"If I could, I would give it all the stars in the universe...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."

A prominent book reviewer from Bulgaria named Rarity from the Hollow as one of the best five books that he had read in 2015.

On January 20, 2016, Rarity from the Hollow was awarded a second Gold Medal by another popular book review site:

An Affiliate of Fantasy Fan Federation, an international organization that has been around since the 1940s, posted on Amazon: "The author has created a new narrative format, something Ive never seen before, with a standard third-person narration, interspersed, lightly, with first-person asides. This makes me think of Eugene ONeills play Strange Interlude where internal and external dialogue are blended. Rarity from the Hollow begins with some rough stuff, hard to read, involving child neglect and child abuse. But it soon turns the corner to satire, parody, and farce, partaking a little of the whimsical and nonsensical humor of Roger Zelazny or even Ron Goulart...."

"...There is much here worthy of high praise. The relationship between Lacy Dawn and DotCom is brilliant. The sense of each learning from the other and them growing up and together is a delight to read. The descriptions of DotCom's technology and the process of elevating the humans around him again is nicely done. Eggleton reminds me very much of Robert Heinlein at his peak...."

Rarity from the Hollow has now appeared on over one-hundred blogs or magazines worldwide, in twenty-three different countries including all over the U.S. and the U.K., Finland, Mexico, Bulgaria, Belgium, South Africa, Croatia, Uruguay, India, Taiwan, Australia, Nigeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Canada, Vietnam, Portugal, The Netherlands, Sweden, The Philippines, and Israel. The project has grown into a world-wide movement to sensitize people about child maltreatment through a satiric and comical science fiction adventure.

Thanks again for your beautiful spotlight!

Robert Eggleton said...

The second edition of Rarity from the Hollow was released on November 3, 2016: The eBook version was released on December 5, 2016:

Robert Eggleton said...

After Christmas, the publisher is going to make the next deposit of author proceeds from the Rarity from the Hollow project into the nonprofit agency's account for the prevention of child maltreatment. Millions of American children will spend this holiday in temporary shelters. Having once been the director of emergency children's shelters in West Virginia, it is still heartbreaking to think about children not having a "real" family during Christmas. I remember the faces, the smiles and thank yous for the presents from staff, but….

I also wanted you to know that the novel received a very cool review by Amazing Stories Magazine. This is my tweet: “Amusing at times, shocking at others, a touching and somehow wonderful SFF read.” Full review by Amazing Stories Magazine: On Sale for Christmas: Proceeds help maltreated children:

Robert Eggleton said...

The 2018 Edition of Rarity from the Hollow is Available for Any eReader:

Robert Eggleton said...

Rarity from the Hollow has a new website:

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