Author Interview: Robert Eggleton

Title of Book: Rarity from the Hollow

A short description of book:

Rarity from the Hollow is an adult social science fiction novel filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. The most unlikely savior of the universe begins the story as an impoverished victim of child maltreatment. 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 early tragedy feeds and amplifies subsequent satire and comedy:

“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.”

What inspired you to write? And what was the inspiration for this book?

I’ve dreamed about being a writer since winning the short story contest in the eighth grade. I started lots of stories, but I’ve mostly spent my life writing nonfiction – dozens of child welfare related investigative reports, service models, research, statistical reports…. In 2002, I accepted a job as a children’s therapist for our local mental health center. It was an intensive day program that served kids with mental health problems, many of them having been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions. One day in 2006 during a 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. My protagonist 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 and loving home. This girl inspired the creation of Rarity from the Hollow.

How can individuals help bring awareness and move the issues discussed in the book in a positive direction?

The mission of Rarity from the Hollow is to sensitize readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment through a comical and satiric science fiction adventure. Perhaps beginning with Charles Dickens’s Tiny Tim, there is a history of presenting child maltreatment in fiction. One of the most touching novels turned into film was Precious, backed by Oprah Winfrey. Throughout its history, however, with some exception, these stories were so depressing that while awareness may have been increased, some consumers didn’t enjoy the experience and this blocked full appreciation of the works. I’m hopeful that readers of Rarity from the Hollow will enjoy the reading experience and that this will prompt positive memories and positive actions long into the future, such as expressing political support for funding to help victims and even making charitable contributions themselves.

Half of author proceeds from Rarity from the Hollow have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I used to work in the early ‘80s. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 families and children each year in an impoverished state with inadequate funding to deliver effective social services. Especially with a predicted decline in federal support for community-based child welfare programs, purchasing this book or making a donation to this or a similar needful agency would be another direct route in a positive direction.

Many abused kids demonstrate resilience that, for me, is amazing. Especially when abuse is related to the mental illness or substance abuse of or by the parent, guilt, in my opinion, rather than functioning as a motivator to address the problem can actually be detrimental. Parents who read my story may achieve insight that their children, more than anything in the world, want to love them, and that, while the damage done may not be forgotten or forgiven, that their children are strong and can not only survive, but can become empowered. Rarity from the Hollow is a tribute to the concept of victimization to empowerment.

“…As a conclusion I do believe this is a book with a strong message, that has to be read especially by parents and that should raise some alarms when it comes to children. We have to do our best to make a better world for them especially. The author has chosen a very powerful character to express his views and for that I can only congratulate Mr. Eggleton.”

Also, especially with increasing awareness of PTSD, such as that experienced by Lacy Dawn’s father in the story, Rarity from the Hollow provides hope to spouses that the condition is treatable. By exemplifying the impact of treatment, this story may encourage readers with PTSD, such as Vets returning from the war in the Middle East, to seek treatment. I certainly hope so. In my experience, PTSD and anger management concerns are related, and can potentially result in sudden anger at anything, including a defenseless child.

Rarity from the Hollow was awarded a second Gold Medal and an excerpt from that review is apt to the prevention of child abuse: “…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity From the Hollow 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….”

Last, if some of your readers simply do not enjoy science fiction, Rachel, I’m hopeful that just reading this interview will motivate them toward positive action in the direction of improved child protection. There are hundreds of under-funded emergency children’s shelters in the U.S. Sending an anonymous gift to a homeless child would be a wonderful and inexpensive way to help. Just Google to find the age-range of children served. Otherwise, any size or shape will do as maltreatment comes in all demographics.

What is the last book you read?

Poisoned Heartbeats by Temple Williams. It’s an action thriller and very different than what I write. One of the main characters was a terrorist with a plot to kill a bunch of people. I enjoyed it, but I read in most genres, including romance, so I’m easy to please.

Who are your favorite authors?

Gosh, I have lots of favorite authors. Just as a sample: in the early ‘70s when I was in college, works by Ferlinghetti, a poet of the Beat Generation, and by Vonnegut were and remain favorites. I love Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Nora Roberts, Douglas Adams, Phillip K. Dick, some of John Scalzi’s stuff, Steven King, Suzanne Collins, Marissa Meyer ….

What is your favorite book?

Watership Down by Richard Adams remains such a sweet memory that of all the books I’ve read, it may be my favorite all-time reading experience. As a backdrop for context, however, my wife read this book to me as we travelled across country camping in a 1961 VW bus that didn’t have a radio, during our honeymoon in 1973. While I’ve read it since, a few times, I suspect that somehow being in romantic love at the first exposure to the story has something to do with my high regard for it. lol

Thanks, Rachel, for the opportunity to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow.

Rachel Beyer

I am a full time engineer and a part time blogger/writer. I am passionate about reading, writing, biking, volleyball, and my pets.