Welcome to: Robert Eggleton
Hi Alex and thank you for inviting me to be interviewed.
Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., but I grew up around Charleston, West Virginia. Let me elaborate a little because your question ties directly into the plot and character development of my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow.
Shortly after I was born, my father graduated from television repair school in Cleveland. My family returned home to West Virginia. Even though I didn’t remember living in Cleveland, during my childhood I would brag to my peers that I’d been out-of-state since I was born in Ohio. It boosted my social status because very few of my peers had been anyplace other than their own ghettoes.
Similar to the protagonist’s father in my novel, my own father had PTSD caused by World War II traumas that he treated with alcohol. Before I started elementary school, he had become so dysfunctional that my mother would run him off. He would return when sober, “fall off the wagon” and my mother would run him off again, and again. Since we couldn’t pay the rent regularly, we moved frequently — shacks and dilapidated houses in one impoverished neighbourhood after another, into and out of the rural hollows outside of our small town. Typically, I would change schools three or four times a year. Everyplace that we moved, I would brag to my peers that I’d been out-of-state, and they were impressed.
After my father died in a house fire, my family moved into a housing project when I was fourteen. At sixteen, I no longer needed to lie about having been out-of-state because I’d gotten my driver’s license and it was true. I moved out of the Project my second year of college, got married, graduated from West Virginia State College, and was awarded a Masters of Social Work degree by West Virginia University in 1977. I have been employed in this state for over fifty-two years, more than forty of which were in roles related to child advocacy. Today, we own a small house in a low-income neighbourhood on the West Side of Charleston, West Virginia.
The theme, “out-of-state” was incorporated into Rarity from the Hollow. The protagonist is Lacy Dawn. Her mother, Jenny, begins the story as a down-trodden victim of domestic violence. After an off-planet comical adventure, Jenny doesn’t need to brag anymore about having once gone out-of-state.
“Out-of-state” was also an element of a scene during which Lacy Dawn delivers psychotherapy to classmates at school. In this scene, a boy’s father is unemployed because the coal mine had shut down. The boy is being treated by Lacy Dawn for anxiety related to the family’s intention to move out-of-state so that the father can look for a job in Cleveland.
“Out-of-state” was also used in two scenes involving the android. In the first scene, the android had been assigned by Universal Management to perform a job on another planet. He had to leave Earth, leave Lacy Dawn. At this point in the story, the android was beginning to fall in love and to modify his programming so that he could feel more human-like emotions. In this scene, the android sheds his first tear because he has to leave the Hollow and go “out-of-state” for a new job.
The last scene that mentions “out-of-state” involves the android’s return to the Hollow from the out-of-state job. In this scene, he is introduced to Jenny as Lacy Dawn’s fiancé for when she’s old enough to marry. Following is an excerpt showing, in relevant part, Jenny’s head thoughts at one point in the scene:
It’s unusual for a man to promise to come back home and ever be seen again…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.
A book review of Rarity from the Hollow published by The Missouri Review noted its “out-of-state” theme:
“And just when you think enough is enough, this world is too plain ugly…Lacy Dawn, her mother and her dog take off for a trip to the mall ‘out of state’ with Lacy Dawn’s android friend, now her “fiancé”… In the space of a few lines we go from gritty realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip….”
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. The broadest genre classification for my writing is mature speculative fiction. Similar to the way that Heinlein used juvenile voice to address very serious and complex social issues of his day, my writing reads like YA, but it is not intended for younger youth, or anybody of any age that is not open-minded about contemplating emerging controversies and debates. It is not YA or any of its subgenres. In the 1970s, Ursula K. Le Guinn coined the term, “social science fiction” and Rarity from the Hollow fits better within that subgenre than any other, but I don’t want to limit myself to even that categorization because I tend to move into magical realism and other subgenres in some scenes.
The SF/F cross-genre that I’ve used is a backdrop. It is not hard science fiction and includes elements of fantasy, everyday horror, paranormal, true-love type romance, mystery, and adventure. I do not write to fit within a particular genre or subgenre, but I am willing to tone down a story to fit YA expectations as long as the story does not lose its essence if a market is available. I also enjoy inserting satire into otherwise dramatic scenes, as well as puns and even potty humour when it fits the character, and to contrast tragedy.
Where do you find inspiration? 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. At this point, anything and everything in my present or past experiences, regardless of how mundane, can trigger inspiration. I even dream about characters and plot twists.
Do you have a favorite character? If so why? Lacy Dawn is my favorite character because she is so flexible. She can be smart or dumb, colloquial or prim, beautiful or plain…. Like a chameleon, Lacy Dawn adapts to dominate, sometimes subtly, scenes that a rigid character would have difficulty. Maybe she’s my favourite character because she reminds me a bit of myself, especially when I was younger. For example, when I was fifteen my two front teeth were knocked out by a policeman. I wore a partial plate for several years. Anytime that I went to a junk yard to buy a used auto part in those days, I would take out my partial, change the accent of my voice, dress for the occasion, and I always got the best prices. Other guys would ask me how, and I would shrug but the truth is that I was playing a Lacy Dawn before I had given her a name.
Do you have a character you dislike? If so why? Sometimes I absolutely hate Lacy Dawn. She can be so hard headed. If a scene or an action doesn’t make sense, she refuses to play the part. I assert that I’m the writer and, thereby, in charge. Sometimes, like a bad parent I tell her, “I brought you into this world and I can take you out.” She’ll turn her back on me and just wait it out until she gets her way. It really ticks me off, but looking back, she’s always been right when we’ve had an argument. Please don’t tell her that I said that or I’ll never live it down. I guess that any writer who doesn’t create characters that are not both loved and hated is not a very effective God.
Are your characters based on real people? Yes, my characters have always been based on real people, and I have met a lot of people. I have been a professional social worker for over forty years. This work has involved interacting with a lot of “characters” – “street” people, homeless folks, those who had mental illnesses or addictions, as well as, corporate leaders, business owners, supportive and abusive family members, governmental authorities, legislators, rich benefactors and food stamp recipients of all ages, races, genders…. If Sears still produced a catalogue, it would run out of pages before I could blurb about all of the characters inside my head.
My protagonist is based on a real person. One day in 2006, during an adolescent group psychotherapy session that I was facilitating, a traumatized a little girl sat a few feet away from me, around the table used to complete therapeutic worksheets. When it was her turn to talk, she didn’t stop with mere disclosure of detail about her trauma – acceptance of it was just a stepping stone. She spoke of hope and dreams, a future involving a loving family that would respect her physically and spiritually. Her presentation inspired other victims. It inspired me to pursue my life long dream to write fiction. During that therapy session, my protagonist was born. This little girl was my role model of victimization to empowerment. I haven’t stopped writing about her since. Her name is Lacy Dawn, and I recommend that you not mess with her or it’s hard to tell what you’ll get.
Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? No, but I sure have wanted to. I still want to kill this person – I mean character – and in the most horrible way imaginable. This guy is only known as Faith’s father. He didn’t deserve a first name because he was so mean. Faith is Lacy Dawn’s best friend. Faith’s father is best known for his role in a short story entitled, “Stainless Steel” which was published in a now defunct science fiction magazine. Another version of the same story was available on the Alphelion site for a while, but I recently asked that it be taken down because an Australian blogger wanted to reprint it with a new cover. Depending on when this interview is posted, your readers can contact me through the direct link on the Lacy Dawn Adventures website and I’ll give them the address for the blog if they want to meet a very mean daddy. Lacy Dawn and Faith hatch a murder plot in the story, involving the near violation of the First Law of Robotics by the android, but …. I don’t want to spoil it for potential reader. It’s free to read the story.
Only the existence of evil can absolutely guarantee the existence of good.
Chronologically, “Stainless Steel” precedes Rarity from the Hollow. The girls were eight years old. Early in Rarity from the Hollow when the girls are eleven, this man killed Faith. It turned out okay though. Faith becomes a ghost and is still Lacy Dawn’s best friend. All things considered, she’s better off in this form. I guarantee readers one thing, this man is not going to die a natural death if I have anything to do with it, and I do. I am going to name the character first, however, so that passersby can take good aim to spit on his tombstone.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favorite resources? For my type of writing interests, research is less important than if I was into writing hard science fiction, and the world building had to be based upon more reasonable scientific projections of the future. When I’ve needed information, I’ve only used search engines. For example, I needed a name for a planet that had a Biblical reference because of the theme of the story. The story was not religious but the planet’s history was predominated by long series of invasions. I remembered a similar scenario from church Sunday school when I was a child. I used a search engine and came up with the name “Achaia” for the planet. Look it up and let me know if you think that it was a good name. There are plenty of other similar examples, but the worlds that I build just have to be visible in the reader’s mind, and a person can see almost anything even if it is hallucinatory. I research as much as I think is needed to make the scenes feel real for the reader.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? Yes, there are many messages 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 messaged 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/
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? Rarity from the Hollow is available electronically as a .mobi, epub, or .pdf file. It is also available as a paperback. I’ve not looked into audio or large print, but both are great ideas to consider.
Thanks for the great interview.
The second edition was released on November 3, 2016: http://www.lulu.com/shop/robert-eggleton/rarity-from-the-hollow/paperback/product-22910478.html. The eBook version was released on December 5, 2016: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017REIA44/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk.
Public Author Contacts:
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.
“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
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. Here’s a finding by Awesome Indies about the first edition to help you decide if this novel is too far outside of your comfort zone: “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.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/ The early tragedy feeds and amplifies subsequent comedy and satire.
Please also note that the character mentioned above (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 trainings 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 is married — a traditional and now unusual family value;
- She is fourteen years old when the novel ends and has typical teenage interests but remains untouched, not even a first real kiss;
- There are normalized sexual references and innuendos between Lacy Dawn 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, best selling fantasy author during the ’80s and ’90s, found that my novel was “…not for the prudish.” Kevin Patrick Mahoney, editor of the once noteworthy site, Authortrek, found that my story was, “…not for the faint hearted or easily offended….” An 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, SouthPark, 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 state 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 the 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.