Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton Interview


Lacy Dawn is a true daughter of Appalachia, and then some. She lives in a hollow with her worn-out mom, her Iraq War disabled dad, and her mutt Brownie, a dog who's becoming 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, and, most importantly, her own family. 

Thank you for your consideration,

Robert Eggleton 

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About Robert:

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.

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Thanks, Vicky, for the opportunity to tell your readers a little about myself, my debut novel, and how a science fiction story helps to prevent child abuse.

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

In the 8th grade, I won the school’s short story contest: “God Sent” –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. While I had previously written stories for entertainment, that’s when I decided that I wanted to be a writer and dreamed of getting rich. As it often does, life got in the way.

During college, 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 a Master’s degree in Social Work from West Virginia University in 1977.

After college, I focused on children’s advocacy. I got so involved in this emotionally charged work that for the next forty years, I supplanted my need to write fiction by writing nonfiction: manuals, research, investigative, and statistical reports about local children’s services systems and institutions, many of which were published by the WV Supreme Court where I worked from 1983 through 1997. 

In 2003, I accepted a job as a children’s psychotherapist for our local community mental health center. It was an intensive day 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 inspired everybody who met her, staff and her peers alike, including me. She spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a permanent family to love and protect her.

Lacy inspired me to pursue my own children dreams and I started writing fiction again. 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 traditional small press located in Leeds. However, after working with trouble kids all day, I was too exhausted to promote the novel and the small press had no advertising budget. 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. 

  1. How long does it take you to write a book?

Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. It took about six months after work and on weekends to write, but the story was based on over forty years of experience as a child advocate.  

  1. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

Before I retired, I would write every chance that I had to do so, often staying up most of the night and going to work that morning. I would love to say that now that I’ve retired I spend a lot of time enjoying the art and craft of writing fiction. However, honestly, I’ve been so consumed with promotion of the novel that it has been a barrier to finishing the next novel, Ivy, which asks the question, “How far will a child go to save a parent from addiction?”   

  1. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I don’t know if your readers would find it interesting, but my wife thought that I’d gone off the deep end when I started role paying dialogue out loud to edit scenes. She seems to have gotten used to it though, and now will volunteer to play a role if she thinks that I’m doing a poor job with the voice of a character. Don’t tell her, but I now mess up on purpose sometimes just so I’ll have someone fun to play with.

  1. How do books get published?

I’m certainly no expert on publishing. Today, it appears that the majority of books are self-published by people who have enough money to do so, and the price seems to be going down. It is my understanding from participation in a few book groups along the way that some books are not even edited before having been published. I get advertisements almost daily from companies who promise this and that with respect to book publishing. I’ve even seen advertisements for products that will help people edit, recommend plots, etc. I don’t know much about it, and I suppose that such represents advancement in literature, maybe. Personally, I’m not skilled enough with technology to self-publish on my own, and I don’t have enough money to hire a company. Apparently, a lot of people do it, including my brother-in-law who spent a few thousand dollars on a Christian autobiography that he can’t give away. Plus, his book has spelling and punctuation errors that the company didn’t fix before it was published – total waste of money, but he had it to spend. I’ve run across authors on the internet that join a group in support of each other to reduce costs and to promote their works. That’s another way to get self-published, and such a company can make up a cool sounding name for itself instead of the author using her own name as the publisher. It sounds better.

With rare exception like The Martian by Andy Weir, the doors to traditional publishing houses appear to have been chained shut to unknown authors for decades. I suppose that if an author builds a big enough buzz on her own that the door would crack open a bit. An agent might help, but again, I don’t know because I’ve never tried to get an agent. I suspect that traditional publishers will continue to churn out more books by the authors already under contract, so I’m not going to hold my breath while hoping to be discovered like Elvis singing on the front stoop of an apartment complex.

This leaves traditional small presses. I don’t think that there’re many of them left. I got lucky by drawing the interest of Dog Horn Publishing in Leeds. The advantages are that the author gets free editing and design services, and that there are no upfront costs such as associated with self-publishing. Your work is professionally edited and the press is selective about what will be accepted for publication because the press is spending its own money. This helps authors because we strive to put forth our best products to impress the editors, and it ensures that readers spend money on books that have been vetted through an independent process. The down side is that small presses don’t seem to have money to promote the novels that it publishes, and the marketplace is busting at the seams with new books. 

Today, its easy to get published if you have a little bit of money and want to spend it that way, but having a book published is the easy part of becoming a successful author.
  1. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I write what I know. I’m full of information, and everybody has a few good books in them. I have over forty years of experience in child welfare, so I’ve encountered a lot of poverty, mental health concerns, substance abuse, child maltreatment, homelessness, as well as, unconditional love, determination, grit, heroism, and resiliency in both my personal and professional life. The characters in Rarity from the Hollow are based on real-life people with accentuated attributes, and personalities. I’ve already told you about meeting Lacy Dawn at work and how her resiliency was so inspiring that it regenerated my childhood dream of becoming an author. That skinny little girl can also be credited for giving me the idea behind Lacy Dawn Adventures: a female protagonist empowered to face and overcome the evils of the universe without the need to intentionally kill a single sentient being.

  1. When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I was in my early 60s when the first version of Rarity from the Hollow was finished. Looking back on my life, not starting to write for publication when I was younger is one of my biggest regrets. Before self-publishing technology, it felt impossible so I didn’t even try to finish or polish the stories that I did write over the years. If I could go back and know what I know now…. 

  1. What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I enjoy reading, gardening, building construction, working on cars, movies, and a bunch of other “stuff.” I played basketball on various school, city, or church teams for years, and I’m a devoted West Virginia University football and basketball fan. Most recently, however, I’ve neglected recreation to spend time promoting Rarity from the Hollow. Right now, it’s 10 degrees outside, so it’s a good time to be inside and reading, writing, and promoting my fiction.

  1. What does your family think of your writing?

Rarity from the Hollow has received a lot of glowing reviews. However, no book is for everybody and the story is not a good fit for reviewers who expect a mainstream and quick-to- review titles because mine is literary – it takes time to digest and to soak in before it “hits.” Nobody is likely to see all of the metaphors and parodies on the first read. That’s my error. It was my first novel and I crammed too much into it like it would be the only one that I would write: “…It is one of those books that if it does not make you think, you are not really reading it….” My family is one hundred percent supportive of my writing, but they think that I take it too personally if a reviewer criticizes something about the book that I believe should have been obvious. Here’s an example of a negative comment that upset me a little: a reviewer criticized my use of a small lump of coal as a fuel for a futuristic spaceship in the story. Of course such is a silly proposition, but so is clean coal technology as a solution to global warming. Duh. My family thinks that I should just go with the flow instead of being self-critical when a reviewer misses something in the story that I felt was obvious when I was writing it, but was not as clear as I intended it to be.

  1. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

The number one thing about writing a book that surprised me was how easy it was to do, first draft. The second most surprising thing that I learned was how hard it was to edit out a great scene because it didn’t fit the story.

  1. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Rarity from the Hollow was my debut novel, so it was my favorite. When Ivy is published, I’m confident that it will become my favorite. I’ve learned a lot, mostly how to keep the story line simple yet literary.  

  1. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Again, I’m sorry but like the question that you asked me about the publishing industry, I’m not an expert on writing either. I took a couple of creative writing classes in college, but it was the early ‘70s and I think that the professor, who I though was a wonderful person, was stoned most of the time. He mostly taught us about the process, the self-discipline, and the enjoyment of the product. I’ve read a few books on writing but I don’t have any to recommend – “show don’t tell” is a recurring message, open to interpretation, for me anyway, because when the authors seem to think that they are showing I think that they are telling. I don’t mind. I’m a good listener to a good story. I got a book on writing for Christmas. It was written by a famous filmmaker. I’m studying rhythm in dialogue, but so far I haven’t found a single line in Rarity from the Hollow that I would change the rhythm of because of its lessons. I think that role playing scenes has been beneficial to my writing, so I do recommend giving that a try if you have a willing accomplice. Did you know that Jimi Hendrix didn’t know music theory and had no guitar lessons?

  1. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I get occasional comments here and there, like on Facebook. Yesterday, my son helped me start updating the Lacy Dawn Adventures webpage, , and it has a link to my personal email, so I may get more comments, maybe more than I can handle. The most common theme of comments has been: I missed it the first time that I read it but now I’m reading it again and ….

  1. Do you like to create books for adults?

I love to write and I suspect that I would censor myself out of that enjoyment if my punch lines had to be for kids only. I wouldn’t want to write some types of books that some young adults read, such as blowing up stuff and simplistic good and evil. I find teenage angst annoying, so I’d probably murder the monitor if I tried to write that kind of story. I have a couple of children’s books in draft if I can recruit an illustrator, and a couple of nonfiction books in the works. I don’t think that I would be very good at writing erotica or romance novels. Maybe I’m too old, but I just don’t have the feel for it, although I’ve enjoyed reading a few romance novels. Before she died, my wife’s mother was addicted to them and my wife bought a ton of them, perhaps literally, from Goodwill. You could read two or three a night. Rarity from the Hollow is being marketed as adult literary science fiction. Many educated teens with literary interests would be fine with the content, but many adults who are prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended might be shocked. Rather than age grouping, I think that I most like to create books for people who want more than mere recreation out of a book. Enjoyment of the read is critical, but as a springboard for thought and longer lasting and deeper appreciation regardless of the age grouping or maturity level. Given the marketplace, I probably won’t create any young adult books at meet the cookie-cutter model that’s popular at this time.

  1. What do you think makes a good story?

I think that an essential ingredient of a good story is to have a beginning, middle, and end. Yes, I realize that this sounds corny, but so many books nowadays seem to be in series. I guess that it’s a profit gimmick. If a story doesn’t stand alone one hundred percent, with no background information needed, including no mandatory-to-read prologue, and doesn’t end with complete satisfaction of it having been read, I won’t think that it was a good story regardless of any other measures. I read a lot of book reviews. I’m on the lookout for more reviewers of Rarity from the Hollow. If I read a book review that relies on a prior work in the series, or that concludes with something like, “I can’t wait to read the next…,” I pass on reading that book because I know it will be a bad story for me. 

  1. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I was a weird kid. My family was very poor and I went to work as a child to help feed it. I was paying into the U.S. Social Security fund by age twelve. My long-term career goals didn’t extend much beyond finding the next side gig that paid in cash. The only dream that I had similar to “mommy, when I grow up I want to be a…” was to become a preacher. I started memorizing Bible verses and listening more closely to television and radio preachers. I was a fan of Billy Graham, especially impressed when he spoke on behalf of civil rights and bailed Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., out of jail in 1963. I lost faith in Rev. Graham, however, when he later advocated for escalation of the Vietnam War. It’s possible that my disillusionment with Rev. Graham as a role model affected my view of preachers in general, I don’t know, but somewhere along the way I my career goal changed to social work.

  1. What would you like my readers to know?

First, thanks again for this opportunity. We’ve talked about a lot and there’s a lot more that I could say about my novel and the importance of preventing child abuse. I guess that one thing that I want to emphasis is that you should not read Rarity from the Hollow if you are prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.

Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, occupies the body of an eleven year old girls and most of the time she sounds like one, but she is actually hundreds of thousands of years old in the story, and has been schooled in every human subject via direct download into her brain.

The story starts out in harsh realism, magical realism, but becomes increasingly satiric and comical. The tragedy of early chapters amplifies the humor that follows. I recommend that your readers stick with the story rather than becoming so saddened by early scenes that they quit reading. It is a story of victimization to empowerment, just like the real-life Lacy Dawn that I told you about earlier.

Last, I want your readers to know that author proceeds have been donated to child abuse prevention services provided by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. This is an eighty-seven year old nonprofit agency that I trust to spend donations wisely. It serves over 13,000 children and families each year. I worked there in the early ‘80s as the Director of Emergency Children’s Shelters. Your readers can find out more about this agency by visiting its website at

Take care, everybody. 

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