Interview with Robert Eggleton, author of “Rarity from the Hollow”

Happy Holidays, Pat! I hope that you’re doing okay. After Christmas, the publisher is going to make the next deposit of author proceeds from the Rarity from the Hollow project into the nonprofit agency’s account for the prevention of child maltreatment. Millions of American children will spend this holiday in temporary shelters. A lot more world-wide are likely to spend their respective “holidays” in worse conditions. Having once been the director of emergency children’s shelters in West Virginia, it is still heartbreaking to think about children not having a “real” family during Christmas. I remember the faces, the smiles and thank yous for the presents from staff, but….

I also wanted you to know that the novel received a very cool review by Amazing Stories Magazine. This is my tweet: “Amusing at times, shocking at others, a touching and somehow wonderful SFF read.” Full review by Amazing Stories Magazine: On Sale for Christmas: Proceeds help maltreated children:

Thanks again for interviewing me.

Welcome, Robert. What is your book about?

Rarity from the Hollow written by Robert Eggleton, …(is) a great read – semi-autobiographical literary work full of beautiful and ugly things, adventure, romance, pain and humor….”
— Top 100 Amazon Reviewer

Rarity from the Hollow is a children’s story, for adults. It is a social science fiction novel with elements of true-love type romance, every-day horror, paranormal, and adventure. The content includes serious social commentary, comedy, and satire. Lacy Dawn is the protagonist. She occupies the body of an eleven year old, and sounds like one, but has evolved under the supervision of Universal Management for hundreds of thousand of years. She is not a typical little girl, and if you think of her as such, you may be shocked.

Rarity from the Hollow is not for the fainthearted, prudish, or easily offended.

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 has come to the hollow with a mission. His equipment includes infomercial videos of Earth’s earliest proto-humans from millennia ago. He was sent by the Manager of the Mall on planet Shptiludrp (Shop ’till You Drop): 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 helps her to save the universe, Earth, and, most importantly, her own family. At first, this story seems sooooo serious, until……. Then, through the darkness, or perhaps because of it, laugh-out-loud comedy erupts to move the plot toward an outrageous closing scene.

Saving an entire universe is a big job for anybody. It takes more than just magic. Lacy Dawn needs a team and a very strong sense of humor. 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 Lacy Dawn’s father is cured of his mental health problems and stops being so mean to Lacy Dawn and her mom, Lacy Dawn next arranges for her to mother 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 neighbour 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 — the team is ready to embark on a very weird off-world adventure.

Of course, in preparation for the mission, Lacy Dawn has studied for hours to learn about sociology, math, economics, psychology, languages, culture and every other school subject that has a title — her brain gets so filled up with knowledge directly downloaded from a universal database that she increasingly needs the perspectives of others on her team to sort it all out. Working together, the team figures out how a few greedy capitalists had made such a mess of the entire universe and how to prevent its destruction without intentionally killing one single being.

“…You will enjoy the ride with Lacy Dawn, her family and friends, but don’t expect the ride to be without a few bumps, and enough food to last you a long time.”
— Darrell Bain, Award Winning Author

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I’ve dreamed of becoming a rich and famous author since winning the eighth grade short story contest in 1965. Of course, reality got in the way. Except for a couple of poems, one published in a student anthology and another published in an alternative newsletter when I was in college, I’ve started a zillion stories but finished none – until the last decade.

I earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work in 1977 and have worked in the field of children’s advocacy for over forty years. I wrote nonfiction that was published: social service manuals, policy, grants, draft legislation, investigative reports, research, and statistical reports on child abuse and delinquency. Looking back, I now think that writing nonfiction took the edge off, so to speak, of my heartfelt dream to become a fiction writer.

Over the years, I my 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. I began fictionalizing characters and fitting them into stories that were never finished.

In 2002, I started a job as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center. It was an intensive day program Most of the kids, like myself as a child, had been traumatized, some having experienced extreme sexual abuse. Part of my job was facilitating group therapy sessions. One day at work in 2006, a few seats away from me around a table used for written therapeutic exercises sat a skinny eleven year old with stringy brown hair. This girl was inspiring to other kids, staff, and, especially to me and my dream of writing fiction. Her name became Lacy Dawn. Rather than focusing on her victimization, she spoke of dreams – finding a loving family that respected her physically and spiritually. She inspired me to make my own dream come true, to write fiction and I haven’t stopped writing since I first met her that day during a group therapy session.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

A piece of me is a part of every character in Rarity from the Hollow. I’ll give you a couple of example, but there are plenty of others:

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. in 1951, but I grew up around Charleston, West Virginia. 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 ghettos.

Similar to the protagonist’s father in Rarity from the Hollow, 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 neighborhood 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. Neither fathers, my own nor the protagonist’s, could hold down a job for very long – also incorporated into the story.

In early chapters, the theme, “out-of-state” was prominent in Rarity from the Hollow. The protagonist’s 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 because she had also been born in Cleveland, like me.

“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.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

I have many characters, many more than those introduced in Rarity from the Hollow. Picking a favorite would be like a parent picking a favorite son or daughter. Each character has strengths, weaknesses, attributes…let me tell you about Browne. I love that mutt, but maybe that’s because Brownie is so easy to love. He’s Lacy Dawn’s dog and plays an important role in her plan to save the universe. Here are some of his qualities. Maybe you have a pet like this.
• Defensively Brave
• Unconditionally Loving
• Forgiving
• Dutiful
• Entertaining
• Bright
• Stupid Exactly at the Right Times
• Empathetic
• Sensible

I could go on, but……..

Why will readers relate to your characters?

Readers already know my characters. They are neighbors, friends, the “black sheep” of our families, the politicians that we see on TV, the guy that we wish hadn’t moved into our neighborhoods, the boss, the preacher…. Readers will probably relate to my characters the same as they relate to people occupying these and other roles in their lives.

How long did it take you to write your book?

It took about one year, writing after I got home from work and on weekends to complete Rarity from the Hollow. Working with the editor took another six months, but a lot of this was down time, waiting on mailings of the next draft of the manuscript to arrive, etc. Wring is the quick and easy part about being an author. Marketing one’s work to publishers, editors, and self-promotion – that’s the time consuming part about being an author, sometimes there is no time to actually write.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

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 in your writing you want readers to grasp?

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:

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

I enjoy writing. Writing itself doesn’t present challenges. Sure, there were plenty of next days after staying up most of the night that presented a challenge to maintaining quality work performance, but that wasn’t a “biggie.” The real challenges begin after a story is finished and involve the hard work that it takes to interest others in taking a minute to check out what you’ve produced. The marketplace if flooded with books. Unless an author is rich and buys promotional services, and I’m broke, every step of the path after the last period of a story is an uphill climb. I’m climbing, and it is a challenge to maintain drive, persistence and hope. Who was that guy that said something like, “I have a dream…?”

What are you working on right now?

I always have several works in progress at the same time. Since I’ve recently retired, the difference is that I’ve become productive. Instead of ideas, partially developed and then abandoned because life has gotten in the way, I’m reaching closure on a ton of older half-baked stories. A new short story just got rejected by a major science fiction magazine, so I’ve got some work to do on it, especially since I agree that it was prematurely submitted.

COtiguaXAAUzQ_zIvy, my next novel, is almost ready for professional editing. I’m holding off, trying to build name recognition before I submit it to the publisher for consideration. Ivy is a story about the lengths that children will go to help parents overcome drug addition, and includes satire about U.S. military recruitment practices and world religions.

My dream with respect to writing fiction is to get to the place where I no longer need to request book reviews, but instead book reviewers ask the publisher for a copy of my work to review. I’m hopeful that I’ll get to that place with Rarity from the Hollow and then have the release of Ivy perfectly timed so that I can concentrate on writing instead of promotions.

I’ve submitted and am awaiting decisions on two poems, another short story, and a satirical essay by three magazines and one journal. I am prolific if not too distracted with promoting my works. That’s what is slow and drawn out – self promotions, the hardest part, by far, of the role of “writer.”

Purchase Links:

Author Contacts:

Interview With Lacy Dawn, the protagonist of “Rarity from the Hollow” by Robert Robert Eggleton

COtiXSKWUAQIsXeLacy Dawn is the protagonist of Rarity from the Hollow, a literary science fiction novel written by Robert Eggleton. She’s the last person that you would expect to save the universe – a skinny, eleven year old girl with stringy brown hair, from a hollow between the hills in West Virginia. She is also a prototypical humanoid whose savior attributes have evolved for hundreds of thousands years, the product of a genetic implant installed by Universal Management. This Lacy Dawn Adventure picks up with a threat to the economic structure of the universe. It is in imminent danger, potentially devastating billions of citizens living on hundreds of planets if Lacy Dawn cannot find a solution to prevent its collapse. An android has been sent to Earth for Lacy Dawn’s final training. He installs a port in her upper spine so that content from the Universal Database can be directly downloaded into her brain. During tutoring sessions, they fall so deeply in love with each other that the android begins to aspire to achieve human-like emotions and Lacy Dawn finds a boyfriend for when she is old enough to have one.

Hi, Lucy, what is your story?

I don’t really have a story. I’m just a kid who loves her mom and dad, even if dad is messed up – it’s not his fault, he used to be a good man, it was that damn war in Iraq, he came back and just wasn’t the same, not by a long shot. I still love him though, and I’m doing everything that I can to fix him. I’m studying really, really hard – working on it. I’m just a regular kid. There are lots of kids like me, my school is full of us. Each of us has our own story to tell, but nobody really wants to listen. They just say they do, but it’s part of their jobs. If is wasn’t for kids like me with a few problems here and there, just growing up stuff, you know, some adults wouldn’t even have jobs. They get paid for helping us, but I don’t need them because I’ve got a real best friend who is really, really powerful, for real. I’d let you meet him, but he’s not supposed to do stuff like that. Well, that’s it. That’s my story. Pretty boring, huh?

Who are you?

My name is Lacy Dawn Hickman and I’m going to be in the sixth grade next year when school starts. I always make straight A’s because that’s what makes my mommy most proud. She brags about it ‘cause we ain’t got much else to brag about. I’ve got a dog. His name is Brownie. I live down the holler just before the last school bus stop, but if the roads are slick, like in the winter, I have to walk up to the top of the hill. I’ve never missed a day of school and I sure don’t want to start now – no matter what! There ain’t nothing more important than an education. I’m going to be a veterinarian when I grow up, but my friend says that I have some other job to do first. I can float a few inches above the floor and move places without walking. Do you want to see? No, I ain’t supposed to show anybody. Sorry.

Where do you live?

Have you ever heard this? Mountaineers are always free! I’m from West Virginia, and proud of it, but I’m not sure why. My daddy always watches WVU football on TV, when it comes in cause we ain’t got no cable. I wish he wouldn’t get so drunk, but it’s funny sometimes, like when he gets excited and yells at the screen and stuff. I live in an okay house. I’ve got my own bedroom, that’s more than some girls my age. I wish that our bathroom had a door on it though. Sometimes, you know, it’s gross, never mind. This summer I get to plant my very own garden. Mommy promised. I’m still deciding on what to grow. Do you like veggies? I like meat okay as long as I don’t think about where it comes from. Cows have beautiful eyes. It makes me sad to think about it. We go into town every now and then and one day I’ll get to see a Harry Potter movie, like on my birthday. Everybody knows where I live. Do you want to visit? Tell me first because we’ll have to clean up or mommy would be embarrassed. We always leave one beer can to use as an ashtray. Do you smoke? It’s gross. Mommy don’t and I ain’t ever.

Are you the hero of your own story?

I ain’t no hero. That’s something else. Everybody keeps telling me how cool I am, smart and stuff. I am getting’ smarter, every day. I can feel it. I get extra help learning stuff. My best friend, oh forget I said that, I’m not supposed to talk about it. Anyway, sometimes I don’t know where the answers come from. It’s like magic or something. I just know stuff, a lot of stuff, stuff that I don’t know why I even want to know about, some of it is grow up stuff. It’s gross. I know how to help out people when they are having problems. I’m a lot better at it than the preacher. But that don’t make me no hero, not matter what other people say.

What is your problem in the story?

I ain’t got no problems. Well, nothing that I can’t handle. My friend keeps telling me that I have a real important job to do, something about saving the universe. I know about the universe. I know hundreds of different languages. Do you want to learn how to say “hello” in Simbean? It’s a planet close to, oh never mind, it’s too complicated. Maybe I should be a French teacher instead of a vet. Parlez-vous francais? I don’t know why my friend keeps talking about problems someplace else. I lied before. Sorry. I just wanted to sound brave. My problem is that I’ve got to fix my parents before my daddy kills my mommy and, maybe, me too. My mom cries all the time when I ain’t looking. She tries not to let me see, but I know that she does. Her eyes are red and sometimes I can hear her. It’s really, really sad. My dad got some pills from the VA but they ain’t helping. It’s up to me to fix things. It’s a kids job to fix her parents and any kid who don’t ain’t much of a kid and maybe don’t even deserve to live. Don’t you think that’s true?

Do you run from conflict?

I ain’t never run from nothing. It’s stupid. If you run from a bear, that bear will just chase you down. Think about copperheads, move real slow. That’s my advice. There ain’t much more dangerous than a copperhead in this universe. Running away never helps nothing.

How do you see yourself?

Sometimes I see myself as a kid alone in the woods, metaphorically speaking. See, I told you that I was smart. Other times, I see myself as the lead singer in a rock band, like James Hetfield of Metallica. That’s daddy’s favorite band. I’ve been looking at Goodwill every time we go for a CD that daddy doesn’t have, but no luck yet. I am kind. I am smart. I am important. Just kidding, did you see that movie? They showed it at school for social studies class every day for a week this year. There’s only one black kid in my whole school. I think we all need a lot more diversity training, a lot more. That’s my favorite movie of all time, but I do want to see one with Harry Potter. Other girls have shown me his picture and he is sooooooooooo cute!

How do your friends see you?

My best friend is named, Faith. I don’t know where her parents came up with that name. Nobody in her family has been inside of a church, not once. They need it too, except for Faith, she’s cool. Faith thinks that I have magic. I told her that I just have another best friend who teaches me stuff, but I don’t think that she believes me. I’m not allowed to introduce her to him. It’s against the rules. Faith thinks I’m too slow at fixing stuff. I told her that I’m doing the best I can, that I’m growing up too. Faith thinks that I’m kind, I’m good – just kidding again. Seriously, though, that’s what she really thinks. Honest. Ask her.

I don’t get to play with the other kids after school. They live too far away and daddy doesn’t want to drive me. When mommy learns how to drive, maybe she will. I think that those kids think that I’m too smart for my own britches. Most of the time I try not to look so smart. I want to fit in with the crowd, you know, fit. They like me okay, I guess, but they only talk to me when they want me to help them, like when they are feeling angry, or sad, or scared. I like helping them, but every once in a while it would be nice if somebody else besides Faith asked me to do something fun, or tell me a joke or something.

There is this one girl at school who is real jealous of me. Her name is Brittany. If I wasn’t there, Brittany would definitely be the smartest kid in school. I miss spelling words every time there’s a bee on purpose so she can win. Does she thank me? Heck no. And she knows that I’m missing those words on purpose. She has to. Last year, Faith beamed her in the back of the head with a dodge ball. I fussed at Faith for doing it, and didn’t laugh then, not even a smile. But after I got home I LMFAO. Do you know what that means? I’m not allow to say the “F” word, so I can’t tell you if you don’t. I ain’t got no computer at the house, but my friend lets me mess around on one of the ones that he’s got in his spaceship, oops, anyway, you wouldn’t believe what people say on the internet.

My other best friend, you know, the guy, but he ain’t got know private parts, not even a little bump, so it’s okay, he thinks that I’m like a God or something. I think he’s crazy ‘cause I ain’t that smart yet. It’s weird, but I kind of like him thinking that I’m something special when I’m not. Pretty soon, I’ll have him wrapped around my little finger and I’ll make him fix my parents. I didn’t learn how to do that to a man from the computer. My mommy has already taught me how to make men do what you want them to do, and, no, it ain’t got nothing to do with s, e, x. That’s where some girls mess up. They think that s, e, x is how you get a man to do whatever you want him to, like take out the trash or fix the roof. Since you are a girl too, you probably know all this stuff. A man’s attention span is too short for s, e, x to work for very long. Ain’t it? My mommy’s smart. Maybe she didn’t graduate from high school, but she knows a lot of stuff, not book smart, but SMART.

How does the author see you?


Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?

Oh, I get it now. You think that I’m a made up character in a fictional story. Here, sing along with this, “I am he as you are he as you are me, And we are all together.” Does that answer your question? Did you ever play that Beatle’s record backward? Paul ain’t dead.

I’m as alive as any other part of Robert Eggleton’s personality, perhaps more so. There’s no way to portray any of us, the ones who live in his mind, any way other than accurately because we are what we are. That was a weird question. Anyway, I’ve got homework to do. It ain’t good enough just to know answers. A person has to actually do something with the answers before they count. And, what I’ve got to do before school tomorrow is a three page essay and a take home pre-algebra test. If I don’t write down the answers and turn in the papers, I score zero points. I doesn’t matter that I already know the answers inside my head. That counts for zip. See ya later, alligator.

Purchase links:

About the author:

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate 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. Today, he is a recently retired psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia. 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.

Author Contacts: