Welcome! Thanks for stopping by and answering a few questions! How did you start your writing career?
In the 8th grade, I won the school’s short story contest: 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. 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 an MSW from WVU 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 ’83 through ‘97.
In 2003, I became a children’s psychotherapist at our local community mental health center. It was an intensive 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.
I started writing fiction. 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 small traditional press located in Leeds. It is supposed to be reprinted sometime this year. 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.
Tell us about your current release.
I don’t want to spoil anything for its readers. Rarity from the Hollow is full of contrasts: harsh reality amplifies outrageous fantasy, bitterness blends into acceptance and empowerment, tragedy inspires comedy, and a biography of a victim becomes a science fiction story. It does not fit neatly into a genre, such as romance, horror or even speculative fiction.
This novel was written for an adult audience, but does not have graphic sex scenes, a lot of violence or any of the other similar content that one might assume to be attributable to an Adults Only classification. It is sweet but frank and honest with no holds barred. It addresses the complexities of real life, but presents sensitive topics that might trigger emotional distress with comic relief. My intent was for readers to enjoy the experiences that I created with everyday words and colloquialism, but not to gloss over realism in the way that some YA titles accomplish.
In a nutshell, Rarity from the Hollow is about a little girl who learns to be the Savior of the Universe with the help of her family and friends. It’s up to readers to decide which scenes are dissociative as a result of Lacy Dawn’s traumas and which scenes are pure fantasy and science fiction.
Who are your favorite authors and biggest influences?
I’m not sure that you have enough bandwidth for me to make a complete list of inspirations and favourites, so here’s a few. 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 experiment with my writing style outside of commonly accepted structures and formats. Nora Roberts knows how to get me in a romantic mood. 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. Watership Down by R. Adams was such a sweet adventure that some of this element just is a necessary ingredient of even the scariest, saddest, or most erotic story. The versatility in cross-genre and the use of humour by Bradbury had to have been a subliminal inspiration, especially now that I think about it. Dean Koontz has been masterful. 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. And, Stephen King’s use of everyday horror convinced me that alarming scenes can be created by using almost anything as a prop. Piers Anthony sure knew how to write a goofy pun and has always gotten me to giggle.
What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?
I’ve been married for forty-four years and have a forty-one year old son. They both think that I’m nuts, and, of course, they’re right. Both of them proof read my work, make comments about plot and substance, and my son is an IT specialist who makes emergency house calls to my home to keep my computer alive. My wife is the smartest person I’ve ever met, seriously, so I bug her all the time to bounce around ideas, and she doesn’t complain about it too much. The rest of my family is very supportive, but a few of them don’t like for me to use curse words or sexual content, even if it fits a character’s personality. The passing of my wife’s mother was not only a sorrowful experience, but a big loss to my writing. She was the type of woman who could argue for an hour about which Chicago Cub baseball player had the cutest butt, and she had a serious romance novel addiction. I could always go to her for advice. Whether or not my writing is a second career depends on you, the readers. Regardless, my family just wants me to be happy, and that’s what I want for each of them too.
Who are your books published with?
Dog Horn Publishing is a traditional small press located in Leeds, a long way from West Virginia and a place that I would love to visit, but am unlikely to ever afford to go. Adam Lowe is the owner. He didn’t charge me a cent to edit, create the book cover, or to print Rarity from the Hollow. I have been paid royalties, half of which have been donated to a child abuse prevention program in my home state. Adam has won a zillion awards (a slight exaggeration, but not much of one) and is very active in the GLBTQ movement in England, about which I’m proud to have an indirect association. He posts some very funny stuff on Facebook if anybody is interested in a giggle.
How do you react to a bad review of your book?
Rarity from the Hollow has never received a negative review, except for a fake one by a fellow who posted on Goodreads that he was tired of apocalyptic novels. There is nothing remotely close to apocalyptic in this story. I sent him a private message to ask for clarification, probably a mistake and one that I will never make again, but the fellow did not reply. No harm, no foul – whew! My novel has received several reviews, some by expert book critics, and all reviews have been glowing so far. Keep your fingers crossed. A former Editor of Reader’s Digest posted that Rarity from the Hollow was the best science fiction that he’d read in several years. Of course, my story has also been referred to as a love story, horror, social commentary, satire…. I guess that it’s all a matter of what one reads into the story instead of the story itself. I have resolved, however, that if I do get a negative review, I will not complain or argue about it. People have opinions – different strokes for different folks. So, if you decide to read Rarity from the Hollow, and I hope that you will, I welcome your input. I depend on it to become a stronger writer.
ABOUT THE BOOK
RARITY FROM THE HOLLOW by Robert Eggleton
Publisher: Dog Horn Publishing, 2012 / reprint in 2015
SF/F Cross-Genre: Romance, Everyday Horror, Comedy, & Satire
Synopsis: 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 very skilled at laying fiber optic cable. Lacy Dawn's android boyfriend, DotCom, has come to the hollow with a mission. His equipment includes infomercial videos of Earth's earliest proto-humans from millennia ago. DotCom has been sent by the Manager of the Mall on planet Shptiludrp: 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.
Excerpt from 1st chapter:
Inside her first clubhouse, Lacy Dawn glanced over fifth grade spelling words for tomorrow’s quiz at school. She already knew all the words in the textbook and most others in any human language.
Nothing’s more important than an education.
The clubhouse was a cardboard box in the front yard that her grandmother's new refrigerator had occupied until an hour before. Her father brought it home for her to play in.
The nicest thing he's ever done.
Faith lay beside her with a hand over the words and split fingers to cheat as they were called off. She lived in the next house up the hollow. Every other Wednesday for the last two months, the supervised child psychologist came to their school, pulled her out of class, and evaluated suspected learning disabilities. Lacy Dawn underlined a word with a fingernail.
All she needs is a little motivation.
Before they had crawled in, Lacy Dawn tapped the upper corner of the box with a flashlight and proclaimed, "The place of all things possible -- especially you passing the fifth grade so we'll be together in the sixth."
Please concentrate, Faith. Try this one.
"A, R, M, … A … D, I, L, D, O," Faith demonstrated her intellect.
"That's weak. This is a bonus word so you’ll get extra points. Come on."
Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word.
I’ll trick her by going out of order – a word she can't turn into another punch line.
“Don’t talk about it and the image will go away. Let’s get back to studying,” Lacy Dawn said.
My mommy don't like sex. It's just her job and she told me so….
"Wait. I want to tell you something. I've got another best friend. That's how I got so smart. He teaches me stuff."
"A boy? You've got a boyfriend?"
Lacy Dawn put a finger over her lips to silence Faith. Her father was hooking up a battery charger. She slid down the bank, too.
He probably couldn’t hear us, but why take the chance.
A minute later, hand in hand, they walked the road toward Faith's house.
"Did you let him see your panties?" Faith asked.
"No. I ain't got no good pair. Besides, he don't like me that way. He's like a friend who's a teacher -- not a boyfriend. I just wanted you to know that I get extra help learning stuff."
"Where's he live?"
Lacy Dawn pointed to the sky with her free hand.
"Jesus is everybody's friend," Faith said.
"It ain't Jesus, you moron," Lacy Dawn turned around to walk home. “His name’s DotCom and….”
Her mother watched from the middle of the road until both children were safe.
Robert Eggleton is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs. He served as an advocate for children’s rights for over forty years, especially the right of children to be free from maltreatment. Most recently, he retired as a therapist for the community mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, so that he could write fiction – his lifelong dream. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel, and was preceded by three short SF/F cross-genre stories in magazines. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.
Rarity From The Hollow is written in a simple declarative style that’s well-suited to the imaginary diary of a desperate but intelligent eleven-year-old – the story bumping joyfully between the extraordinary and the banal.
The central planet of the universe is a vast shopping mall, and Lacy Dawn must save her world from a menace that arrives in the form of a cockroach infestation. Look again and the space alien has made Daddy smart and happy – or at least an eleven year old girl’s notion of what a smart and happy man should be. He has also made Mommy beautiful, giving her false teeth and getting the food stamp lady off her back.
About the only thing in the book that is believable is the nature of the narrative voice, and it is utterly compelling. You find yourself convinced that “Hollow” was written as a diary-based autobiography by a young girl and the banal stems from the limits of her environment, the extraordinary from her megalomania. And that’s what gives Rarity From The Hollow a chilling, engaging verisimilitude that deftly feeds on both the utter absurdity of the characters’ motivations and on the progression of the plot.
Indeed, there are moments of utter darkness: In one sequence, Lacy Dawn remarks matter-of-factly that a classmate was whipped to death, and notes that the assailant, the girl’s father, had to change his underpants afterward because they were soiled with semen. Odd, and often chilling notes, abound.
As I was reading it, I remembered when I first read Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” at the age of 14. A veteran of Swift, Heller, and Frederick Brown, I understood absurdist humour in satire, but Vonnegut took that understanding and turned it on its ear.
In the spirit of Vonnegut, Eggleton (a psychotherapist focused on the adolescent patient) takes the genre and gives it another quarter turn. A lot of people hated Vonnegut, saying he didn’t know the rules of good writing. But that wasn’t true. Vonnegut knew the rules quite well, he just chose to ignore them, and that is what is happening in Eggleton’s novel, as well.
Not everyone will like Rarity From The Hollow. Nonetheless, it should not be ignored.
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
The Electric Review
The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in several years
Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton is the most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in several years. Who could think of an intergalactic handbook for entrepreneurs? Who could turn a tree-hugger into a paranormal event of death-defying significance? Who could create characters so believable, so funny, so astonishingly human (and not)?
Robert Eggleton, that’s who.
I put this book on my IPhone, and it followed me everywhere for several days. Strangers smiled politely at my unexpected laughter in the men’s room toilet stall. They looked away as I emerged, waving the IPhone at them as if it might explain something significant.
Oddly, the novel explains a great deal that has become significant in our society. Rarity from the Hollow is satire at its best and highest level. It is a psychological thriller, true to traits of mankind (and other species). It is an animal rights dissertation (you will laugh when you understand why I write that). It celebrates the vilest insect on earth (make that Universe).
The characters created by Robert Eggleton will bug your brain long after you smoke, uh, read the final page. Thanks for the laughs, the serious thoughts, the absolute wonder of your mind, Mr. Eggleton. A truly magnificent job.
by Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former Reader’s Digest Editor