Robert Eggleton has served as a children's advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. Locally, he is best known for his nonfiction about children’s programs and issues, much of which was published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from1982 through 1997. Today, he is a retired children's psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome maltreatment and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines. Author proceeds support the prevention of child maltreatment.
Thanks, Abigail, for inviting me to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow.
1. When did you decide to start writing stories?
I started writing short stories as a child. I grew up in an impoverished family and there was no money for toys or entertainment. I started writing stories for fun and began sharing them with family members and later with anybody in the neighborhood who would read them: store clerks, gas station attendants, peers, neighbors…. The positive accolades that I received were a boost to my self-esteem and motivated me to write more. In the eighth grade, I won our school’s short story competition.
In college, I switched to poetry. A few were published, most notably in the 1971 West Virginia College Student Poetry Anthology. However, I’m best know locally for my nonfiction in the field of child welfare: research on foster care drift – kids bouncing from one foster home to the next, never finding permanency; investigative reports on systems and programs, including kids in adult jails, that did more harm than good; statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency….
In 2002, I accepted a job as a psychotherapist at our local mental health center. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions. One day in 2006, around the table used for written therapeutic exercise, a little girl spoke, not just about her maltreatment at the hands of one of the meanest daddies on Earth, but also about her hopes and dreams for the future – finding a loving family to protect her. This girl inspired me to return to writing fiction, a dream that I’d held dear since childhood. This girl became my protagonist, a powerful female who takes on the evils of the universe and doesn’t need any weapons or sex appeal. I named her Lacy Dawn. Three adventures have been published in magazines and Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. I plan to write more. Half of author proceeds are donated to the prevention of child maltreatment.
2. Why science fiction versus the other genres?
The term science fiction is well known and has two broad categories: hard and soft. In the 1970s, Ursula K. Le Guin coined the term “social science fiction” and Rarity from the Hollow may fall within that subgenre better than any other. The science fiction is used as a backdrop in the story. It is not hard science fiction that has a lot of technical details, but it is also not convoluted with lineage and unusual names for characters the way that some soft science fiction and fantasy books employ. It is written in colloquial adolescent voice comparable to The Color Purple.
I selected the science fiction backdrop for Rarity from the Hollow because it was the best fit by process of elimination. The novel also has elements of horror, romance, paranormal …. 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.
3. Who is your favorite character in Rarity form the Hollow and why?
Great question! First, let me explain that I’m not the type of book reader who wants to like a particular character, much less to identify with any characters in a story. I sort of understand those readers who do and who don’t like books when they don’t like at least one of the characters. When writing Rarity from the Hollow, I developed a love - hate relationship with all of the characters, including my protagonist, Lacy Dawn. Her maltreatment, like in real-life, desensitized her to the victimization of her best friend, Faith. To love her to the max, Lacy would have shown more empathy instead of relying entirely on logic. There is one character in my story that I loved and always will –
Brownie, the dog, who was the only member of the team organized to save the universe that had enough natural, unconditional love to communicate with a most vile enemy.
4. What are your plans for the next writing project?
Currently, I’m trying to build name recognition so that my next adventure has a receptive audience. It’s titled Ivy and is another literary novel but focused upon heroin addiction and the implications to family and society, also with a science fiction backdrop. Set in an almost forgotten Earth town, exploitation of under-developed planets is accomplished by manipulating military forces toward extinction as a byproduct of substance abuse.
5. What questions do you wish I had asked you and what is the answer to that question?
Back Story: If Lacy Dawn is so smart, having received extraterrestrial educational programming, why didn’t she tell an adult that her best friend, Faith, was being molested?
In an earlier story, when Faith was nine, she had been committed to a locked mental health facility because of symptoms exhibited at school – anger outbursts, observable dissociation, inability to concentrate…. She considered this facility much worse than her tragic home life and didn’t trust foster care based on what other girls in the facility had told her about it, including sexual abuse by strangers. Faith’s father had also molested her older sisters when they were too young to fight back and Faith regarded the molestation as an illness of her father with which she expected to endure like her older sisters – a secret rite of passage in a highly dysfunctional family.
As a condition of her disclosures about the molestation to Lacy Dawn, Faith had insisted that Lacy make a cross-your-heart promise not to tell anybody, especially not an adult. Still, this is a character flaw of Lacy, not to fully help protect her best friend despite the promise not to tell and the minimalization of risk by Faith. It is also a very true and accurate real-life attribute of promises between best friends during childhood.
Faith plays an annoying and comical ghost most of the story. She only made one blaming statement about her murder to Lacy: “too little, too late.” While it is not addressed in the story, it is suspected that the murder of Faith was because Lacy had broken the promise not to tell and the father had found out.
Please note that there are no scenes of sexual abuse, or any sex scenes at all, in this novel. The sexual abuse element is covered by brief flashback reference only, with early tragedy feeding and amplifying subsequent comedy and satire.
Futuristic Prediction: Is Mr. Prump in Your Story Based on Donald Trump?
Yes, Rarity from the Hollow was the first, perhaps the only, science fiction adventure to specifically predict the rise of Donald Trump to political power -- parody with no political advocacy one side or any other. Readers find out how Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, convinced Mr. Rump (Bernie Sanders) to help talk Mr. Prump (Donald Trump) into saving the universe. The allegory includes pressing issues that are being debated today, including illegal immigration and the refuge crisis, an issue that several European commentators have compared to cockroach infestation; extreme capitalism / consumerism vs. domestic spending for social supports; sexual harassment…. Mr. Prump in my story was a projection of Donald Trump based on the TV show, The Apprentice. The counterpart, Mr. Rump, was based on my understanding of positions held by Bernie Sanders as I wrote the story. Part of the negotiations in the story occur in the only high rise on planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop), a giant shopping mall and the center of economic governance, now more easily identifiable as Trump Tower.
My novel has a happily-ever-after ending. I remain hopeful that as President Trump’s budget cuts are being debated, that our most vulnerable are protected, especially the kids. However, again, there is nothing preachy about Rarity form the Hollow. It was written as a fun yet thought provoking story that is open to reader interpretation and without any attempt to moralize about any issue, except to increase sensitivity to the huge social problem of child maltreatment.
6. Dogs or Cats?
I’ve been married for over forty years. My wife and I have owned and loved many dogs and cats during this time. We have specialized in rescue animals. Currently, we have a dog and three cats. Over the years, our pets have always gotten along very well and the dogs have been very protective of our cats. I’ll tell you a story about when I got the dog that we have now for my birthday nine years ago.
My wife drove me up to Walmart where a van with rescue animals was parked – puppies and kittens. I picked up a puppy out of the cage. “Do you want that one?” she asked. Now, how do you put back a puppy after holding it? We had, sadly, lost our twelve year old dog a couple of weeks before, inoperable cancer, so I took the puppy to the car and bonded as my wife filled out paperwork.
It was shaking and scared; only looked up at me once – big bright blue eyes peering out from a fuzzy ball. When we got home, I named the dog. But, I didn’t name him Blue because of his eyes. I named him Blew because once home he blew up the entire house!
Thanks again, Abigail, for giving me the opportunity to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel.
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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. A Children’s Story. For Adults.
“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
. "…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy." -- Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)
“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” --Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)
“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author
“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” -- The Baryon Review
"…Brilliant satires such as this are genius works of literature in the same class as Orwell’s 'Animal Farm.' I can picture American Lit professors sometime in the distant future placing this masterpiece on their reading list." -- Marcha’s Two-Cents Worth
"…I know this all sounds pretty whack, and it is, but it's also quite moving. Lacy Dawn and her supporting cast - even Brownie, the dog - are some of the most engaging characters I've run across in a novel in some time…." -- Danehy-Oakes, Critic whose book reviews often appear in the New York Review of Science Fiction
"… The author gives us much pause for thought as we read this uniquely crafted story about some real life situations handled in very unorthodox ways filled with humor, sarcasm, heartfelt situations and fun." -- Fran Lewis: Just Reviews/MJ Magazine
Half of author proceeds are donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia for the prevention of child maltreatment
Available at Amazon