I have a very delicious post for you today, my bookie friends! We get to chat with an author (yes, cue fangirling…an author!!) Now, let me have the honor today and introduce you to ROBERT EGGLETON! Exciting!!!
Calm… I can do this I can do this…
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 noveland 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.
You can find him through:
Hi Robert, thank you so much for stopping by! I’m super duper excited for this opportunity.
ROBERT: Hi, Mariana. Thanks for the opportunity to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow.
Let’s start! What was the process behind coming up with the title for Rarity from the Hollow?
ROBERT: The title of the novel comes from a scene in the middle of the story: “Yard Sale in the Hollow.” Lacy Dawn, the eleven year old protagonist, an empowered victim of child maltreatment, had organized a team to help her save the universe in exchange for the alien intervention that had been provided to cure her family of mental illnesses and distress. The team was still in its analysis of the threat phase when it went to planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop), a giant shopping mall that was the center of universal governance. To establish Earth’s right for continued existence, the team had to compete in a standard event involving the negotiation of the best prices, the biggest discounts for merchandise sold in the planet’s shops. After the shopping trip, the merchandise, most of which had unknown identification or purpose to team members, was brought back to Earth and put in the barn. Lacy Dawn decided to have a yard sale to get rid of it. The yard sale grew up into a “Woodstock” by advertising the event on the internet: Rarity from the Hollow – rare and unique merchandise most attractive to connoisseurs of weird stuff. I picked it among a few other options as the title.
W.O.W! I definitely want to drop a visit at Shptiludrp and Rarity from the Hollow‘s world soon. What inspired this fascinating setting?
ROBERT: Rarity from the Hollow contrasts two very different worlds: one inhabited by the downtrodden on Earth and planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop), an imaginary or real place crammed full of specialty shops and luxury hotels where vacationers from all over the universe visit. Each setting was based on my personal world view as a child – the rich and the poor.
On Earth, the house with a bathroom without a door, a room that was added as an afterthought, I lived there in real-life. It rented for $40 a month, and without that low rent I couldn’t have afforded to attend college. The pasture where an imitation Barbie doll was used for target practice by neighbor boys (a metaphor of the impact of poverty on the self-esteem of children) – I’ve had to scrape cow pie off of my shoe in real life. The dilapidated furniture store where Lacy Dawn’s father bought a brand new couch for his wife, a symbol of enduring love between a husband and wife, I’ve sat on this couch, or one that looked just like it. These and other descriptors of the Earth settings were inspired by personal experience.
On Shptiludrp, my inspiration probably came from the fantastical ideas that I held as a child about rich people. I was the oldest child of an impoverished family in West Virginia, U.S. Since we didn’t have a vehicle, grocery shopping was challenging even after the food stamp program was enacted and we had a significantly improved means to purchase food. For example, the giant shopping mall as the central planet of the universe in Rarity from the Hollow, with its diversity by species and gender (or genderless), the use of beltways as transportation to shop, free same-day delivery of merchandise, were inspired by my mother’s recurrent dream that one day we would be in a position to go shopping like “regular” people, and without survival being so burdensome — that we would have money to shop and an ride home afterward.
To some extent, the worlds that I created also reflect political issues — class and distribution of resources in real life, with the characters reminiscent of Animal Farm by George Orwell. Instead of farm animals, I selected a much more durable species to represent the spawn of humanity – highly evolved cockroaches, the vilest insect ever known to human-kind and the most likely survivors of any apocalyptic event. Similar to the story, my own mother hated them with a passion. She felt that their infestation represented bad housekeeping practices, a self-esteem issue in many cultures that is psychologically damaging. Again, the inspiration was personal experience.
I agree! Personal experience can definitely be a powerful inspiration. Can you tell us a little about how Rarity went from inkling of an idea to a published novel? Was there any massive changes?
ROBERT: I earned a Master’s degree in social work in 1977. After college, I went into the field of child welfare where I spent over forty years in various positions advocating for children’s rights. In 2002, I took a job as a children’s therapist in an intensive day program at our local mental health center. Part of my job was the facilitation of group therapy sessions for participants, many of whom had been abused, some sexually. One day in 2006 during a group therapy session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises, and a little girl with stringy, brown hair sat a few feet away. Instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of the meanest daddy on Earth, she also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family who would protect her.
This girl was inspiring. She got me thinking again about my own hopes and dreams of writing fiction, something that I’d placed on a back burner. The protagonist for Rarity from the Hollow was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the Universe, Lacy Dawn. I began to write fiction in the evenings and sometimes went to work the next day without enough sleep. Every time that I would feel discouraged, when I felt like giving up, I would imagine Lacy Dawn speaking honestly about the barriers that she faced in pursuit of her dream of finding a permanent home. I’ve continued to write about Lacy Dawn and her science fiction adventures when facing real-life barriers to success and happiness that many others face in real-life.
I was fortunate. I found a traditional small press that was interested in my writing. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. This means that I didn’t have to pay any money to have it edited or published, and that’s a good thing because I’ve never made much of a salary in my career – it’s not something that one goes into for the money. However, it also means that I’m responsible for almost all of the promotions of the novel – to tell prospective readers that it exists because small presses do not have advertising budgets like big publishers. I still get discouraged when self-promoting my novel, and I still think about that little girl working so hard toward her dream of finding a loving family. It’s inspiring – try it!
Rarity from the Hollow was professionally edited twice by different people. The first time, it was on paper with mailings of the manuscript back and forth. Yes, there were changes from the original manuscript to the published version. The editing process took six months the first time and another six months the second. Most of the changes involved scenes that were cut or shortened to improve pace of the story. The second editor complimented my flexibility as we worked together toward a finished product. Frankly, I’m not sure if flexibility was the most applicable term. I felt compelled to do whatever was needed to introduce Lacy Dawn to the world.
That is such an awe-inspiring story. Do you have a favorite quote or scene from Rarity? If so, can you share it with us?
ROBERT: Sure. I like this scene, not necessarily the best, but its one that easily stands on its own out of context of the rest of the story. It’s 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.
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.
“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….”
What’s your favorite part of the writing process? Drafting, rewriting, editing, sharing it….eating chocolate, etc.?
ROBERT: I love writing. It’s my main recreation. My favorite part of the process is reaching great scene closures, when everything clicks and there is that ah-ha moment.
Ah ha, I get what you mean. 😉 Last question! Can you share a writing advice that you consider the most helpful?
ROBERT: My best advice to aspiring authors is to work with a totally independent editor and to listen most closely to that which you most do not want to hear.
Awesome advice! Getting feedback is definitely an important thing in basically everything. Again, thank you so much for letting me have you at my blog, Robert. It was superb chatting with you!
Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton
Age Group: “Children’s Story for Adult”
Lacy Dawn is a little girl who lives in a magical forest where all the trees love her and she has a space alien friend who adores her and wants to make her queen of the universe. What’s more, all the boys admire her for her beauty and brains. Mommy is very beautiful and Daddy is very smart, and Daddy’s boss loves them all.
Lacy Dawn, the eleven year old protagonist, perches precariously between the psychosis of childhood and the multiple neuroses of adolescence, buffeted by powerful gusts of budding sexuality and infused with a yearning to escape the grim and brutal life of a rural Appalachian existence. In this world, Daddy is a drunk with severe PTSD, and Mommy is an insecure wraith. The boss is a dodgy lecher, not above leering at the flat chest of an eleven-year-old girl.
Yes, all in one book.
It is a children’s story for adults with a happily ever after ending.
Awards: Gold Medal for Awesome Indies