Excerpts,  Interviews with Writers

Q&A | Excerpt : Robert Eggleton | Rarity from the Hollow

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I’m delighted to be welcoming Robert Eggleton today.

Rarity from the Hollow is Robert’s debut novel and its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction.  Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire.

Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.

Robert Eggleton


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.

“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

Interview

 Hi Robert,

Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.

Hi, Shaz.
Thanks for the opportunity to tell you a little about myself, Rarity from the Hollow, and how a fun
novel helps to prevent child abuse.

Please summarise Rarity from the Hollow in 20 words or less. 

Rarity from the Hollow is adult social science fiction written in adolescent voice. It satirically /comically addresses serious social problems.

What was the idea/inspiration for your novel Robert? 

My ideas come from my own personal and professional experiences, supplemented by those of troubled children and families that I’ve worked with for over four decades as a social worker and psychotherapist. The characters in Rarity from the Hollow were based upon real-life people that have inspired me to fictionalize them. I have so many such characters –- “street” people, persons with mental illnesses or addictions, victims and perpetrators, poor and rich, powerful and downtrodden…. I will run out of lifetime before I run out of great characters. I write what I know, and I’ve known a lot of people because of my work.

I was born into an impoverished family in 1951. My alcoholic and occasionally abusive father suffered from WWII related PTSD. He had night terrors and couldn’t hold down a job. As a child, I was filled with rage –- humiliated and guilty that I was too small to protect my own mother. These intense feelings inspired me to learn at an early age how to turn my anger into motivation and this process continues to fuel my productivity as an adult, especially when writing emotionally charged scenes as was included in Rarity from the Hollow.

I’ve held back my creative juices for so long that it’s not a matter of “finding” inspiration as much as it is managing it toward a structure the results in productivity.

Please tell us about the characters in your book. 

Thanks for the question, but I’m not going to spoil the story for readers. I’ll tell you just a little bit about the major characters.

The protagonist of Rarity from the Hollow is Lacy Dawn. She is an eleven year old who has evolved under the supervision of Universal Management for hundreds of thousands of years. Management believes that she is ready to assume her role as the savior of the universe. She may sound like a kid, but readers learn in the first scene that Lacy Dawn is not an average eleven year old.

Lacy Dawn lives in a hollow with her worn-out mom, Jenny; her Iraq War disabled dad, Dwayne; and her talented mutt Brownie. Dwayne, once a football star in high school, returned from the war with PTSD. Jenny didn’t graduate from high school, her teeth are rotting out from lack of dental care, and the family is in bad shape at the beginning of the story.

Lacy Dawn’s android boyfriend is DotCom (explanation for his “silly” name is revealed in the story). He has come to the hollow with a mission – to 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.

At its beginning, this story feels sooooo serious, but then through tragedy or perhaps because of it, laugh-out-loud comedy erupts. Saving an entire universe is a big job for anybody. It takes more than just magic. Lacy Dawn needs a team.

First, she motivates the android into helping her fix her family by putting her foot down and flat out telling him that she won’t save the universe unless he helps her first. The android agrees to the terms. After Dwayne is cured of his mental health problems and stops being so mean to Lacy Dawn and her mom, Lacy Dawn next arranges for Jenny to get her rotten teeth replaced, pass her GED, and to get a driver’s license. The mother feels so much better about herself that she also joins the team.

By this time, the android has fallen so deeply in love with Lacy Dawn that she has him wrapped around her little finger. Add a pot-head neighbor, Tom, who sells marijuana and has a strong sense for business transactions, Brownie, a dog who proves to have tremendous empathy for the most vile occupants of any planet, and Faith, the ghost of Lacy Dawn’s best friend who was murdered by her own father (Faith is not dead – a metaphor of declining church attendance.) and the team is ready to embark on a very weird off-world adventure.

On Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop), the team meets Mr. Rump and Mr. Prump. They are cockroach brothers who have evolved and now run the center of universal governance. A feud between the two brothers had lasted for eons and presents barriers to Lacy Dawn fulfilling her team’s mission. Mr. Rump is a metaphor of Capitalism, while Mr. Prump represents Socialism, a model personality that is more true to their species.

And, that’s all that I going to disclose about the major characters because any more might spoil the story. There were minor character in various scenes.

What scene was the hardest to write? Why? 

The magical realism of the third chapter in Rarity from the Hollow was especially difficult for me to write. It was a scene of Jenny being abused by Dwayne. Lacy Dawn escapes into the Woods to consult with her friends, the trees with whom she has had long conversations with for several years. Except for Faith, they are her only best friends. Lacy Dawn psychologically struggled with her sense of duty – whether or not to intervene as her mother was being abused.

The third chapter is an intense and violent scene. Dwayne beat out the truck’s windows with a tire iron and pulled Jenny out of the cab where he switched her as she sprawled on the ground. As a survivor of childhood domestic violence, this scene was difficult for me to write because every time that I reworked it, I would tear up and my vision would blur. Part of the time I couldn’t see the words that I was typing on the monitor.

This is the only violent scene in the novel and represents a turning point from realism to increasing satire and comedy. The harsh realism and tragedy amplify subsequent laugh-out-loud subsequent scenes and, personally, I was so glad to move from victimization to empowerment, the overall them of the story.

If your book is part of a series, what is in the future? 

My intention is to write Lacy Dawn Adventures, short and full-length. Rarity from the Hollow is the first full-length adventure to have been published. There have been three short adventures published in magazines. Lacy Dawn’s age can vary among the adventures. After all, she is actually thousands of years old and powerful enough to represent any age that she chooses. Lacy Dawn is a teenager in Ivy, the next full-length adventure, she was eight years old in a story entitled, “Stainless Steel,” but it is not a Young Adult story either. She is an adult with a hologram double in a story that is pending consideration by a magazine and entitled, “My First Real Job,” which would likely fit Young Adult genre because of the action scenes, but kids would probably miss most of the satire and metaphors. My future writing depends on reception. If Rarity from the Hollow is well received, I would enjoy more speculative fiction. However, I have an interest in most genres. I even occasionally read a Romance novel. Yes, older guys can still feel romantic. I’m not sure that I’d be very good at writing sexy scenes, but it might be fun to try.

Which authors have influenced your writing Robert? 

I’m not sure that you have enough bandwidth for me to make a complete list of inspirations, so here’s a few. Of course, Heinlein’s determination as an aspiring author after having been rejected so many times inspired my own persistence. Also, the way he progressively treated racial and gender issues in his fiction at a time when science fiction was regarded a pulp for kids inspired me to consider incorporating social commentary into my fiction.

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 continue to have fun experimenting with my writing style outside of commonly accepted structures and formats. One book critic found that the writing style of Rarity from the Hollow was a quarter-turn beyond Vonnegut.

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, which was comforting. The protagonist in Rarity from the Hollow just had to be a kid. 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. I want my writing to be as hopeful regardless of barriers. I incorporated sweetness into the character of the android and the dog in Rarity from the Hollow. The versatility in cross-genre and the use of humor by Bradbury – I have enjoyed everything that he’s written. It taught me that people finish what they read because they are experiencing enjoyment. Recreational reading is not like a homework assignment. I kept this lesson in mind to ensure that Rarity from the Hollow would be a fun read despite introductory tragedy.

Dean Koontz has been masterful and can give me enjoyable nightmares. I’m one of those people who learned how to enjoy having the crap scared out of me. The worker roaches coming after Tom when he accidentally squished a couple of their friends, that was kind of scary, except it was also kind of outrageous. Nora Roberts knows how to get me in a romantic mood. Both of these elements were incorporated into my writing, except, for me, romance has to be based on true love, real or imagined. Lacy Dawn lets the android kiss her on the cheek, once, period, and there has never been a stronger love.

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. It’s a place that I really like to visit, but would not necessarily want to live there full-time. I was influenced to speak the truth as the characters saw it in Rarity from the Hollow, regardless of whether the story fit within a preconceived formula to increase sales.

Stephen King’s use of everyday horror convinced me that alarming scenes can be created by using almost anything as a prop. I’ve already talked about the third scene in Rarity from the Hollow. On Goodreads, that scene stopped a nineteen year old woman in her tracks. She posted a book review which stated she still watched Disney movies and that my novel was in the horror genre and that people who read Stephen King would probably enjoy it because my novel was well written.

Rarity in the Hollow tackles a social barrier.

What is the message that you want readers to take away with them Robert? 

Yes, there is social commentary in everything that I have written and will write. That’s why I think of my writing as social science fiction – that’s what it’s all about. 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.

Your question reminds me of a line from Rarity from the Hollow that a reviewer had pulled out and posted on a blog because she thought that it was significant for some reason:

A person can know everything, but still not have a true answer to an actual question.

The narrative of this novel addressed 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. In my opinion, it is critical that such messages be in every piece of literature, even comics and erotica, but each of us have to find truths within our own hearts and minds.

One of my personal truths is that enough is not being done to prevent child abuse / exploitation in the world.

Author proceeds from the Lacy Dawn Adventures project have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia: http://www.childhswv.org/

Thank you for your honesty Robert.

** If there are any reviewers who would like to read Rarity from the Hollow, you can get in touch with Robert through Lacy Dawn Adventures homepage. **

Excerpt

From chapter 13,
Mom I’d Like to Introduce You to My
Fiancé
:

            …..…Jenny (the mother) walked up the hill
to Roundabend. She called Lacy Dawn’s name every few yards. Her muddy tennis
shoes slipped and slid.

            I hear her voice. Why won’t she answer me?

            “Sounds like she’s talking to
someone,” Jenny said to the Woods.

            Nobody responded. The trees
weren’t supposed to since Jenny was no longer a child. Her former best friends
had made no long-term commitment beyond childhood victimization. They had not
agreed to help her deal with domestic violence in adulthood. She hugged the
closest tree.

            I will always love you guys.

Jenny
quickened her pace, stopped, and listened for human voices. A few yards later,
she stopped again.

            Now it sounds like she’s behind me instead of in
front. 

            Jenny looked to the left of
the path.

            There ain’t no cave Roundabend, but there it is.

            She walked toward the
entrance. The voices grew louder and she looked inside. Lacy Dawn sat on a
bright orange recliner. Tears streamed down her face.  Jenny ran to her daughter
through a cave that didn’t exit and into a blue light that did.

            “All right, you mother
f**ker!”

            “Mom!” Lacy Dawn yelled. “You
didn’t say, ‘It’s me’ like you’re supposed to (a traditional announcement
mentioned earlier in the story).”

            DotCom (the android) sat naked
in a lotus position on the floor in front of the recliner.  Jenny covered Lacy
Dawn with her body and glared at him.

            “Grrrrr,” emanated from
Jenny.  It was a sound similar to the one that Brownie (Lacy Dawn’s dog) made
the entire time the food stamp woman was at their house.  It was a sound that
filled the atmosphere with hate.  No one moved.  The spaceship’s door slid
shut.

            “Mommmmmy, I can’t breathe.
Get up.”

            “You make one move you
sonofabitch and I’ll tear your heart out,” Jenny repositioned to take her weight
off Lacy Dawn.

            Stay between
them
.

            “Mommy, he’s my friend. More
than my friend, we’re going to get married when I’m old enough — like when I
turn fourteen. He’s my boyfriend — what you call it — my fiancé.”

            “You been messin’ with my
little girl you pervert!” Jenny readied to pounce.

            “MOM!  Take a chill pill! He
ain’t been messing with me. He’s a good person, or whatever. Anyway, he’s not a
pervert. You need to just calm down and get off me.”

            Jenny stood up. DotCom stood
up. Jenny’s jaw dropped.

            He ain’t got no private parts, not even a little
bump.   

            “DotCom, I’d like to introduce
you to my mommy, Mrs. Jenny Hickman. Mommy, I’d like to introduce you to my
fiancé, DotCom.”

            Jenny sat down on the
recliner. Her face was less than a foot from DotCom’s crotch and she stared
straight at it. It was smooth, hairless, and odor free.

            “Mrs. Hickman, I apologize for
any inconvenience that this misunderstanding has caused. It is very nice to meet
you after having heard so much. You arrived earlier than expected. I did not
have time to properly prepare and receive. Again, I apologize.”

            I will need much more training if I’m ever assigned
to a more formal setting than a cave, such as to the United
Nations.

            “Come on, Mommy. Give him a
hug or something.”

            Jenny’s left eye twitched.

            DotCom put on clothing that
Lacy Dawn had bought him at Goodwill. It hung a little loose until he modified
his body. Lacy Dawn hugged her mother…

            …(scene of Dwayne, the father,
overheard by those in the spaceship while talking to himself)… “Besides, the
transmitter was part of Daddy’s treatment. There’re a lot of other things that
he did to help fix Daddy. DotCom is like a doctor. You can see that Daddy has
gotten better every day. And no, there ain’t no transmitter in you. DotCom
figured you out like a good doctor and the only things wrong are a lack of
opportunity and rotten teeth that poison your body. You don’t need no
transmitter. He just gave you a few shots of ego boost. I don’t know what
medicine that is, but I trust him. You ain’t complained since the shots started
— not even with an upset stomach.”

            “He’s a doctor?” Jenny
asked.

            “What’s your problem anyway?”
Lacy Dawn asked. “I know.  You’re prejudiced. You told me that people have much
more in common than they do that’s different — even if someone is a different
color or religion, or from a different state than us. You told me to try to
become friends because sometimes that person may need a good friend. Now, here
you are acting like a butt hole about my boyfriend. You’re prejudiced because
he’s different than us.”

            “Honey, he’s not even a person
– that’s about as different as a boyfriend can get,” Jenny said.

            “So?”

            Mommy’s right. Maybe I need a different
argument.


A fast clicking
sound, a blur of motion, and a familiar smell assaulted them.

            “What’s that?” Jenny asked.

            She moved to protect her
daughter from whatever threat loomed. Brownie, who had been granted 27 / 7
access to the ship, bounded over the orange recliner, knocked DotCom to the
floor, licked DotCom’s face, and rubbed his head on Jenny’s leg. He then jumped
onto the recliner and lay down. His tail wagged throughout. Jenny sat down on
the recliner beside Brownie and looked at Lacy
Dawn.

            “But, you were crying when I
first came in. That thing was hurting you.” Jenny shook her finger at DotCom to
emphasize a different argument against him.

            “Mommy, I’m so happy that I
couldn’t help but cry. My man just came home from an out-of-state job. I didn’t
talk to him for a whole year. Before he left, he told me that he wasn’t even
sure if he’d be able to come home. I still don’t know what happened while he was
gone. We ain’t had no chance to talk. All I know is that he’s home and I’m
sooooo happy.”

            “Your man came home from an
out-of-state job?” Jenny patted Brownie on his head, some more and some more….

            It’s unusual for a man to promise to come back home
and ever be seen again. Brownie likes him and that’s a good sign. Maybe she’s
right about him
helping Dwayne.
Something sure did and it wasn’t me. It is a nice living room. They’ve been
together for a while and I ain’t seen a mark on her
. That’s unusual too. He ain’t got no private parts and
that’s another good thing
. Hell,
if I get in the middle, she’d just run off with him anyway.
I
d better play it smart. I don’t
want to lose my baby.

            “What about his stupid name?”
Jenny asked.

            “I’ve got a stupid name, too.
All the kids at school call me hick because my last name is
Hickman.”

            “My name was given to me by my
manager a very long time ago. It represents a respected tradition — the
persistent marketing of that which is not necessarily the most needed. I spam…,”
DotCom said.

            They both glared at him.

            “Dwayne is sure to be home. I
don’t want him to worry. Let’s go,” Jenny said.

            “Okay, Mommy.”

            “I love you, DotCom,” Lacy
Dawn stepped out the ship’s door, which had slid open. Brownie and Jenny were
right behind her.

            “I love you too,” DotCom said.

            Lacy Dawn and Jenny held hands
and walked down the path toward home. The trees didn’t smile — at least not so
Jenny would notice. On the other hand, no living thing obstructed, intruded, or
interfered with the rite.

            Jenny sang to the Woods, “My
little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she grows up, marry a doctor when she
grows up, when she grows up.  My little girl’s going to marry a doctor when she
grows up, marry a doctor when she grows up, when she grows
up….”

About the Author

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 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. http://www.childhswv.org/ 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.

 Connect with Robert Eggleton

 Lacy Dawn Adventures website

 Goodreads

 Facebook

Family comes first! I'm married with two son's in their 20's and have a little more time now to follow my passions. I love my role as an Inclusion Lead in KS2 and I'm passionate about early help. I'm a member of Bournemouth's Early Help Operational Board working alongside others to instigate change and growth. I'm also passionate about my love of reading, being out in nature and creating with crochet. I've been blogging for eight years at Jera's Jamboree.

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