Hi everyone! Today, I’m featuring an adult literary science fiction novel. This is not my usual genre, as I’m a YA reader, but this book seemed intriguing, and it tackled some pretty heavy topics.
Here’s a bit about the book:
Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton
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.
My questions will be in italics, while Robert’s will not.
Hi, Alice. Thanks for the opportunity to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your book!
I’ll start by telling you about me because so much of this novel, while it uses science fiction as a backdrop, is based upon my real-life experiences. Each character in the story has accentuated attributes of people that I’ve actually known. I’ll concentrate on how Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, manages the challenges in her life on a mission to save the universe.
I was born in 1951, the eldest son of an impoverished family in West Virginia. My alcoholic and occasionally abusive father had PTSD from WWII and couldn’t hold down a steady job. My mom did the best she could, but somebody had to support my family, so I worked odd jobs until I got a regular one in a drug store when I was twelve.
The Earth setting in Rarity from the Hollow is also a poverty stricken hollow. Lacy Dawn’s father is a disabled Gulf War Vet who, similar to my own, had trouble holding down a job to support his family – night terrors that occasionally drove him into recurring rages in the beginning of the story. The mother, also like my own, was downtrodden with rotting teeth and little hope of ever getting her G.E.D. or driver’s license until Lacy Dawn negotiates extraterrestrial help to save her family.
Unlike Lacy Dawn in the story, I’ve never met an android. I have been fortunate to have met many wonderful and inspiring people who have not only served as positive role models, but who also gave me a helping hand, such as hiring me for odd jobs when I was a kid, and encouraging along the way.
After I won the eighth grade short story contest, my English teacher made a difference in my life by encouraging me to write fiction. I’d written stories for my own enjoyment for as long as I can remember, but she gave me the confidence to share my stories with others. Becoming an author became my dream.
Work ethic is a strong element in Rarity from the Hollow and a personal value. I continued to work at various minimum wage jobs during high school and college and became a Social Worker in 1973. I earned a Master’s degree in 1977. Despite the family’s poverty in the story, each character – the mother who always kept a clean house, the disabled father who earned money by fixing cars, and Lacy Dawn who plowed gardens with a tractor – they were hard workers. It was a matter of pride.
Children’s rights and welfare became my calling, and similar to Lacy Dawn’s hard work to save her family in the story, I worked hard at my job. However, perhaps because of the emotionally draining aspects of working with kids in need, I put off pursuing my dream of becoming an author.
During my professional career, I have me hundreds of people: homeless, addicted, maltreated, disabled, rich benefactors, politicians, court officials…it’s a long list – a lot of potential characters for writing fiction. A few of these people were incorporated into Rarity from the Hollow, character traits accentuated. I won’t live long enough to experience running out of great characters for writing fiction.
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 that I was facilitating, I met the real-life role model for my fictional protagonist. Lacy Dawn had been severely abused, but was so resilient that it was inspiring to everybody who met her, staff and her peers alike. She spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a permanent family that would love and protect her, forever. She inspired me to pursue my long-lost dream of becoming an author.
I started writing fiction in 2006 after meeting Lacy Dawn. I wrote every chance that I could get: during the evenings after work, sometimes most of the night; weekends; on lunch breaks; during family outings…. You get the picture. I became a total bore.
Three short Lacy Dawn Adventures were published in magazines. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. I call it literary science fiction because the story 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 mainstream sci-fi, romance, or horror.
In a nutshell, Rarity from the Hollow is a story about a sad and powerful little girl who learns to be the savior of the universe, motivated by love for her family and friends, and with extraterrestrial intervention achieves her dreams. 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.
The novel was published by a traditional small press in Leeds, a long way from my home in West Virginia, in 2012 and is now being republished as a second edition. A few months ago, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist after fifty-two years of contributions into America’s Social Security fund so that I would concentrate on writing and promoting my fiction. Rarity from the Hollow has since won two Gold Medals from major book review organizations: http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/ and https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/rarity-from-the-hollow; and was named as one of the best books read in 2015 by a prominent book reviewer from Bulgaria: http://codices.info/2015/12/top-5-for-2015-ventsi/
2. Where did you get the idea for Rarity from the Hollow?
In the late ‘70s, I was the Aftercare Coordinator for a children’s shelter that served homeless, runaway, and throwaway teens. One of the counselors who also worked there would make a dinner for the kids called, “sewer stew.” It simmered all day. Maybe you’ve made the same at your own house, but probably called it a more appetizing name: put all the frozen leftovers for the week – clean out the freezer – into a big pot with broth. The kids loved it, but they were always hungry, so….
I’ve already told you about how Lacy Dawn inspired me to pursue my dream of writing fiction during her mental health treatment episode in 2006. I knew that I wanted to write to publish, but I didn’t know what. Similar to the stew that I just mentioned, I began to think about all the books that I have loved over the years and why: Charles Dickens introduced Tiny Tim to the world, a perfect book for a reader with a social worker kind of heart; George Orwell and his drive to impact society by incorporating politics into Animal Farm; Piers Anthony’s ability to give readers a temporary break from reality, something that everybody needs once in a while; Vonegutt’s style and wit when delivering irreverence that made us all think; Richard Adams for defining what it means to be sweet in a story; Douglas Adams for his ability to farce serious subjects…it’s a long list.
In short, I thought about many of the books that I’ve loved and decided to combine them into a sewer stew. I lot of people, like the kids in the homeless shelter, have love it, but a few have decided that it wasn’t a proper recipe.
3. You’ve said that there are many serious themes within this book. Is this still an appropriate novel for younger readers?
Yes, the social commentary in Rarity from the Hollow addresses poverty, lack of education, mental health concerns, including PTSD experienced by war veterans and treatment of Bipolar Disorder with marijuana, child maltreatment and corporeal punishment of children…. Let me stop here, just to be clear about this part of my answer before your readers think that the story would be a heavy read.
The Awesome Indies book reviewer found: “…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… it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy….”
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 for some people, 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.
Frankly, I’ve called it an adult book, in part, because I didn’t want to deal with any controversy if Rarity from the Hollow had been marketed for young adult readers. This novel is not for the prudish, faint-of-heart, or easily offended regardless of age. On the other hand, if my granddaughter would want to read it, my feelings would be that there are a heck of a lot worse things that she will be exposed to in this world, including some YA novels. For example, in this story, Lacy Dawn decides not to have sex for the first time until after she is married, and decides not to try marijuana until after she has graduated college – pretty conservative family values for this day and age.
4. There are a few controversial topics in your book, including that of child abuse. What are your personal beliefs regarding this topic?
Each year, over three million children in the United States alone are reported as having been maltreated, according to the National Child Abuse and Neglect data system. Many of these reports were never substantiated. That sure doesn’t mean that these kids were protected. More likely, it is an indicator of inadequate investigation due to lack of funding. Plus, it’s likely that there are many more cases than will ever be reported.
I believe that there is no higher priority than the welfare of the world’s children, that child welfare is the single most important matter affecting human survival and that the failure to protect children, all children everyplace, contributes to other ills that cost even more money to address: drug addition, mental health concerns, crime, poverty, health care costs,…and, yes, even national security and our fight against terrorism.
So, if child welfare is so important, why is it inadequately funded? One possibility is that there seems to be a public misperception that child abuse cannot be prevented, so why try? While prevention is impossible to measure, after working for over forty years in the field of child advocacy, I know that child maltreatment can be prevented.
Effective community supports for families have been demonstrated and can be expanded to include programs that invite parents to get the assistance that they usually want but are afraid to ask for out of fear that they will be put in jail, ostracized, or that the kids will be taken away. Over half of author proceeds from Rarity from the Hollow have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. I used to work there in the early ‘80s and stand by this nonprofit agency. It serves over 13,000 families and children each year, including adoption services, emergency children’s shelters, parenting programs that include kids with disabilities, referrals to mental health treatment programs…. For more information about this agency: http://www.childhswv.org/
There are small, community-based child welfare agencies in the backyards of your readers. These programs are likely under-funded and could use all the help that they can get. One way that I measure whether a program is worthy of donations is by asking how much the executive director of a program makes in salary. If the answer from the program’s administration is that such information is confidential, that program gets my “no” vote. If the salary is higher than I like to support, the program gets my “no” vote. After your readers look around their own communities, I’m confident that they will be impressed by wonderful agencies run by highly trained, skilled, and dedicated employees who care about kids.
5. Why did you decide to write a book about such serious topics?
This novel includes social commentary on:
And, mentions other serious issue of the day.
However, as I mentioned before, these serious topics are not handled in a manner that is preachy and the tragedies become satiric as the story evolves. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to ready preachy material. I don’t even think that the religious pamphlets that are found on the floors of public restroom stalls should be so preachy. I would read them if delivered under more sanitary conditions.
I didn’t have a choice about whether or not to write Rarity from the Hollow, my debut novel. I’ve already told you about meeting Lacy Dawn and how she inspired me pursue my own childhood dream to write fiction. The psychological need to begin and follow through on the project became so intense that my physical health was affected. Until the novel was published, I had difficulty with sleep, frequently awakened in the middle of the night with unresolved recurring dreams of scenes. I had concentration difficulty which affected every daily activity. Before publication of this novel, I was driving past planned interstate exits because the untold story was in the back of my mind. Rarity from the Hollow demanded to be shared and it gave me little choice but to do so.
By tradition, fiction has fueled social activism, debate, and the adoption of evolving or devolving social policy. Frankly, while I’ve read nonstop for decades, when I started writing it, I was not aware of the big debate in the marketplace about whether fiction should or should not be pure escapism. I now belong to a writer’s group in cyberspace with members who debate this very issue. The focus seems to be on whether the inclusion of serious topics in fictional works would help or hurt sales.
Did the GLBTQ titles increasingly being released, and the popularity of television shows such as Modern Family, influence the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that same-sex marriage was a Constitutional right? I don’t know and the answer wouldn’t make any difference to my products. I simply write what I know, what I’ve experienced in my own life, and hope that readers enjoy the comical slant that I place on complex issues.
I do believe that all artists have an opportunity to have a positive or negative impact on society. Artists aspire to achieve an audience. They need one as much as they need oxygen or food. There are many examples of fund-raising campaigns for various wonderful causes put together by popular artists.
6. What was the hardest thing about writing Rarity from the Hollow?
Writing comes easy for me. Writing the third scene, domestic violence, however, was tough. Tears blurred my view of the monitor every time that I reworked it. Maybe it triggered my old PTSD, I don’t know, but I do want to advise your readers that the early tragedy in the story leads to increasingly satiric and comedic farce, so let the third chapter serve to amplify your overall enjoyment of the novel.
7. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My advice to aspiring authors would be to start when you are young, unlike I did, and, more importantly, stick with it. It appears that the number of writers who start then quit far outnumbers the ones who had more determination. Stick with it! That’s my plan. Keep your eyes open for release of the next Lacy Dawn Adventure, Ivy, which asks, “How far will a child go to save a parent from addiction?”
Thank you to Robert for answering these questions!
About the Author
Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. Locally, he is best known for his nonfiction about children’s programs and issues, much of which was published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from1982 through 1997. Today, he is a retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome maltreatment and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines. Author proceeds support the prevention of child maltreatment.