It has been a long time since I last posted an author interview. Now, I am glad to introduce another author that some of you might already know. He’s the author of Rarity from the Hollow, an adult literary science fiction novel.
I prepared a shortlist of questions that will let you know him as an author and of course, you’ll also get to know how he wrote his book, Rarity from the Hollow. So, let’s start it now.
1. Where do you get the idea of writing the book Rarity from the Hollow? Are they taken from an experience of yours or someone else you know?
Thanks, Alyssa, for inviting me to share with your readers a little about myself and my debut novel. This story incorporated personal experiences, such as having experienced domestic violence related to my war-damaged father, professional experiences based on my career as a children’s advocate for over forty years, and was inspired by the hopes and dreams of an eleven-year-old victim of child maltreatment who shared her experiences during group psychotherapy sessions. Essentially, it is a story of victimization to empowerment filled with tragedy, comedy, and satire. The political allegory in the story was inspired by me having watched Donald Trump on the reality television show, The Apprentice. I projected a universe built upon extreme capitalism, wondered what would happen to child welfare in such a system, and came up with a female protagonist who used logic instead of swords or sex appeal to address and resolve an imminent threat.
2. Why did you feel you had to tell this story? How do your family and others feel about the book?
Yes, you’re correct, I felt compelled to tell this story. First, I’ve had a heartfelt desire to become an author since winning the eighth-grade short story competition. During my career, I’ve had quite a bit of nonfiction published over the years: child welfare service models, research, investigative reports…. In 2002, I accepted a job as a psychotherapist in a local children’s mental health program. This job didn’t require much writing, so the drive to write had no outlet, and it built until it became uncomfortable. When I met Lacy Dawn during the group psychotherapy session that I mentioned before, I knew that I had found my protagonist with a voice that just couldn’t be denied.
At first, when I started writing fiction, my wife and son thought that I had flipped out. I would stay up very late after work and go to work in the mornings with inadequate sleep. I wrote on weekends, sometimes ignoring other household chores. While supportive, I imagine that my wife was quite annoyed. I don’t have a lot of family members left. Some have expressed support, while others have not liked a single one of my posts on Facebook. Never before at any time, my extended family is divided. – Trump as the President. Our love had always conquered all other political issues in the past, but this U.S. election in has strained relationships. While my novel includes political allegory, it does not include any political activism except for sensitizing readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment. Just the fact that one of the characters was based on Donald Trump, and another was based on Bernie Sanders, was enough for some of my family members to hate it. I don’t know what it’s like in the Philippines, but in West Virginia, the strain on family relationships because of politics is very sad. In both family units, my only brother and my only sister, there is a rift between the children and parents and in one case, an ex-husband and his ex-wife who had a surprisingly great relationship before. Of course, not because of my novel, I pray for healing within my family.
3. What are your goals when you wrote this novel? Do you have a specific reason for writing it?
Beginning with having read Charles Dickens when I was a teen, I’ve read a lot of books that featured child victimization. I even went to see the box office hit Precious when it came out in 2009. It was based on a book, Push by Sapphire, that I’d read. One thing that all of these great works had in common was that they were so depressing that their audiences didn’t want to think about the messages after the last page was turned. My goal was to write a story that sensitized readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment through a comedic and satire adventure – something that was fun to read and, because of that, might influence people to want to do something to help prevent child maltreatment.
The final edition of my debut novel was just released. One book review of the ARC of Rarity from the Hollow affirmed that I’d achieved my goal: “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.”
I’ve mentioned how I’d felt compelled to write, and how an eleven-year-old victim of child maltreatment inspired me, but, frankly, this writing gig is very draining and can be discouraging. I knew that I needed something more than ego to sustain my drive – the ARC of this novel has received amazing praise, including one of the most recent book reviews with closing lines: “…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.” What has really kept me going on this project has been that early on I dedicated half of the author proceeds to support the prevention of child maltreatment. Today that has become my primary goal for having written and still promoting this project.
4. How did you choose the genre of your book?
I sometimes call Rarity from the Hollow an adult literary science fiction novel since it has literary elements. But, since readers might be more familiar with social science fiction, at other times, I refer to the novel as adult social science fiction to distinguish it from hard science fiction. Actually, it’s a genre-bender. The story has elements of fantasy, everyday horror, romance, magical realism, psychological thriller, and adventure within a science fiction backdrop. Several book reviewers have commented that the story is unique. Here’s one:
“…soon I found myself immersed in the bizarre world… weeping for the victim and standing up to the oppressor…solace and healing in the power of love, laughing at the often comical thoughts… marveling at ancient alien encounters… As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing… whimsical and endearing world of Appalachian Science Fiction, taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….”
I selected science fiction as the backdrop because it was the best fit by process of elimination. We’ve touched a little on this before when we were talking about the goals of the novel. The way I see it, the systems in place to help maltreated children are woefully inadequate. I felt that the straight literary, biographical, exposé, memoir, or 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 Rarity form the Hollow 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 – living in the past. 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 science fiction came into play. It provided a power source. I tied science fiction to Capitalism – we’ve also talked about how a projection of Donald Trump from his days in The Apprentice influenced me and about my hope to raise money for child abuse prevention – because in today’s reality it will take significant financial investment by benefactors to improve the welfare of children in the world. I dream that Big Business recognizes the advantages of strong child welfare systems on this planet.
5. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change? Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Due to factors beyond my control and related to issues affecting the traditional small press that published Rarity from the Hollow, this novel circulated as an Advance Review Copy for over two years. It’s too complicated to go into, and nobody’s fault, really, but the main thing is that it turned out great! During this period, I did “go back and do it all over again” with every book review that I studied. I learned a lot. In the final edition just released, during a six-month third professional editing, some of the stronger languages were toned down, the political allegory was strengthened, and a new ending that ties the beginning tragedy together with the subsequent comedy and satire was written. At this point, I want to move forward with promoting this project and getting back onto the next project – Ivy, an almost forgotten small town and the headquarters of an alien invasion of Earth using a most potent weapon, drug addiction.
6. What makes your writing style different from the other authors?
Several book reviewers have made highly complimentary remarks in their reviews about my writing style. This review reads a little high brow, probably because it was written by an established book critic, but it expresses the best answer to your question. On January 20, 2016, an Affiliate of Fantasy Fan Federation, an international organization that has been around since the 1940s and holds an annual fantasy fiction contest, posted on Amazon: “The author has created a new narrative format, something I’ve never seen before, with a standard third-person narration, interspersed, lightly, with first-person asides. This makes me think of Eugene O’Neill’s play “Strange Interlude,” where internal and external dialogue is 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….”
In a nutshell, I enjoy sharing the inner thoughts of my characters. The mind moves so much faster than the body, so no action scene could keep up with a thought process.
7. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I’ve already shared an excerpt of a book review that essentially found that I’d accomplished my goal of taking serious subjects and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them. There’s no higher compliment than an acknowledgment that one has successfully achieved a goal. So, I’ll tell you about a horrible incident that just happened a week or so ago.
I received an email that a review of Rarity from the Hollow had been posted on the reviewer’s blog. I replied with a thank you and went to the blog to read it. I was disappointed, but I took it in stride. As an ARC, my novel had been awarded Gold Medals by two major book review organizations, was named alongside The Martian by Andy Weir and Revival by Stephen King as one of the five best books of 2015 http://codices.info/2015/12/top-5-for-2015-ventsi/, and received dozens of glowing reviews on Amazon. A critical review, especially one that appeared as if the reviewer had not actually read the story in its entirety, was no big deal. Right?
Then, I went to Amazon. I was flabbergasted. The title for this review made it sound as if my protagonist, Lacy Dawn, who begins the story as an eleven-year-old victim of child maltreatment – the title of the review made it sound like she was naked in the story! For the first time as an author, I reacted poorly. When the reviewer finally replied to me, with me worrying all the time about what damage this review was doing sitting on Amazon, the reviewer acted defensively: “It’s my honest opinion.” I felt like I was defending a defenseless child who represented all maltreated kids.
Well, several emails back and forth later, the reviewer and I finally connected on the issue. She said that she had not titled her review and that Amazon must have generated a title for it based on the content of her review. She changed the title. I apologized for losing it.
The criticism that I have the hardest time handling has come from book reviewers who have read outside of their comfort zones, and have made presumptions about the story that they may have not actually read. I’ve tried very hard to define this novel, but because good people support the concept of preventing child maltreatment, it doesn’t protect the project from criticism when these same folks challenge their comfort zones by reading something without checking it out first. The above review with the misleading title that we just talked about, for example, still includes a line that Lacy Dawn couldn’t wait to give an android her panties. I have not idea where this book reviewer came up with such a line, but nothing could be further from the truth, and this is a hard criticism to take.
To ensure that you and your readers have an understanding of the Comfort Zones that could be challenged if your read Rarity from the Hollow, please consider the following statement.
Comfort Zones: Please note that there is a mention of a child having been murdered in this novel, by the meanest daddy on Earth. However, there is no scene, and she plays a comical and annoying ghost most of the story. The early tragedy feeds and amplifies subsequent comedy and satire. Please also note that this character (Faith) is a victim of sexual abuse. Sexual content in the novel:
- While the protagonist occupies the body of an eleven-year-old, she is the product of genetic manipulation by Universal Management for millennia;
- Lacy Dawn began her training via direct download into her brain five years before the beginning of this story, so she has been fed information about every known human subject, including biology, reproduction, economics…for years before readers are introduced to her (ET involvement is an opening chapter reveal);
- Her best friend, Faith, as a sexual abuse victim, has a sad and unhealthy awareness of sexuality;
- The android has no private parts, “not even a little bump,” and is much less mature emotionally than Lacy Dawn throughout the story;
- There are no sex scenes in the novel and only references, including the disclosure about Faith’s victimization by a reference and as a flashback with no scenes;
- As the android pursues humanity and starts going through an accelerated human development stage, he never develops any actual sexual interests but does try to kiss Lacy Dawn on the cheek once;
- Lacy Dawn vows not to have sex for the first time until after she has married — a traditional and now less common family value;
- She is fourteen years old when the novel ends and has typical teenage interests but remains untouched romantically, not even a first real kiss;
- There are normalized sexual references and innuendos between Lacy Dawn’s parents after their romance was rekindled — the father was cured of PTSD, and the mother’s self-esteem improved, in part, because she got new teeth as part of the deal to save the universe;
- But, the above sexual references are presented as puns, nothing on screen, and are milder than most romance novels that I’ve read, such as by Nora Roberts.
Piers Anthony, the best selling fantasy author during the ’80s and ’90s, found that my novel was “…not for the prudish.” Kevin Patrick Mahoney, the editor of the once noteworthy site, Authortrek, found that my story was, “…not for the faint-hearted or easily offended….” A new early voice in the first chapter speaks about things that no child should know. It is that of a traumatized child – a voice most of us never listen to, or want to hear, but in real life is screaming. I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist. The language and concepts in this story are mild in comparison to some of the stuff that kids have said during actual group therapy sessions that I have facilitated over the years. By child developmental stage, it is similar to the infamous early adolescent insult in E.T.: “penis breath.” It is tame in comparison to the content of the popular television series, South Park, which has been devoured by millions of teens. My story does include marijuana smoking, but that subject has been frequently broadcast in the news as states move toward legalization when legislation is introduced, or debates emerge. Except for a scene involving domestic violence in the third chapter, there is no violence or horror — no blood, guts, gore, vampires, or werewolves. The “F word” is used twice, but all other profanity is mild colloquialism. Rarity from the Hollow is a children’s story for adults with a HEA ending like a romance novel.
8. How does your writing process look? Consistent with regular amounts of word count daily/weekly… or more sporadic with a gush of words all at once and then a dry bed for a while?
My writing process is maturing. I have never experienced a “dry bed” or writer’s block. Typically, when I begin writing I have to force myself to stop so that I get enough sleep, take care of chores…. I waited so late in my life to begin fiction writing, and I have had so much experience to draw upon for content, I plan to better structure, to set a schedule so that everything about life fits.
Thank you for those informative answers, and of course, I won’t forget to ask one interesting question,
9. What would you choose: a print book or an e-book? Why?
It took me a while, but I now prefer e-books. My little house has become so filled with books that I feel like I live in a library. So, I was kind of forced into e-books. We had no more room for paper books. I now love how the font can be enlarged with e-books, something impossible with paper.
And before we end this, I’d like to thank you, Mr. Robert, for taking time answering these questions and for revisiting my blog.
Thank you, Aly. It was very kind of you to invite me to tell your readers about my project.
Again, thank you and may God bless you!
May God bless you, as well, Aly. Please pray for all the maltreated kids in this world. – Robert
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.
Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state 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, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.
Today, he is a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, 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: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. The second edition of Rarity from the Hollow was released on November 3, 2016. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.