Wednesday, November 18, 2015

AMONG THE STACKS: Robert Eggleton


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Robert.  Welcome to The Gal.  It's a pleasure having you here today.
            Let's start out with something easy: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Robert Eggleton:
Hi, Meghan.  Thank you for the opportunity to tell your readers a little bit about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow.
            I was born in 1951, the oldest son of an impoverished family in West Virginia.  My alcoholic and occasionally abusive father had PTSD from WWII.  It was called shell shock back then.  He had night terrors and difficulty holding down a job.  My mom did the best she could, but somebody had to support my family, so I worked odd jobs until I got a minimum wage job when I was twelve.  I've made payments into America's Social Security fund for the next fifty-two years.
            In the 8th grade, I won the school's short story contest.  I began to dream of becoming a rich and famous author.  As it often does, life got in the way.  Between school and work, I was too exhausted to write any more stories.  I continued to work at various minimum wage jobs during high school and college.  Work, antiwar activities and school kept me too busy to write stories, so 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 West Virginia University in 1977.
            I worked in the field of children's services for the next forty years.  I supplanted my need to write fiction.  Instead, I wrote manuals, research, investigative, and statistical reports, much of which was published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where I worked from 1983 through 1997.  In 2003, I became a children's psychotherapist at our local community mental health center.  It was an intensive program for kids with severe emotional disturbances, often caused by child abuse.
            One day at work in 2006, I met the real-life model for my fictional protagonist during a group psychotherapy session.  She sat a few seats away from me around a table used for written therapeutic exercises.  Lacy Dawn had been severely abused, but was so resilient that it was inspiring to everybody who met her.  She spoke of her dreams for the future - a loving family that would respect her both physically and emotionally.  The experience prompted me to finally pursue my own dreams to write fiction.
            So far, 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.  In May 2015, I retired from my job as a children's psychotherapist so that I could concentrate on promoting and writing my fiction that introduces Lacy Dawn to the world.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Robert Eggleton:
I'm pretty much an open book, so to come up with five things that people don't know about me is a tough question.
  1. I occasionally read romance novels.
  2. My two front teeth are a bridge - the real ones were knocked out by a policeman when I was sixteen years old.
  3. I sometimes cry during sad movies.
  4. When I was eleven, I preached a sermon to a small fundamentalist Christian church congregation during which the members handled rattlesnakes.
  5. My favorite snack is radishes with salt, but I don't eat them in public.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Robert Eggleton:
Except for Bible stories, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the first commercial fiction that I remember reading.  Some elements of this story were incorporated into Rarity from the Hollow.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Robert Eggleton:
I recently finished reading Warrior Patient, an inspirational work about facing medical problems with courage - I guess that I'm the age when this topic is more relevant than before.  As a commitment to a Goodreads program, I read and wrote a review of a young adult murder mystery romance.  Let me just say that I struggled to finish it and I'm in "recovery."  I went to the shelves in my basement to look for Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins, but couldn't find it.  I need something really good to read, so I'll be watching your blog for a good fit to my reading interests.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why thank you, Robert.  I hope you've found something that caught your interest. :)
            What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Robert Eggleton:
I've already told you about winning the eighth grade short story competition with a story about a redneck semi truck driver who became so obsessed with the conflict between Jewish vs. Christian theology that he lost concentration on the road and caused a terrible accident.  That's when I began to dream of becoming an author.  I've started but never finished a zillion stories since then.  I've also told you about meeting Lacy Dawn that day in 2006 and how she inspired me to follow up on my dreams. Once I'd dedicated author proceeds from Rarity from the Hollow to child abuse prevention, that's what locked it in.  I couldn't quit now even if I sometimes feel like giving up.  I couldn't handle the guilt.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Robert Eggleton:
I've been minimally successful in writing anything but poetry anyplace but at home.  I've written poetry everyplace, including in bathroom stalls and on sheets of scrap paper.  But when it comes to writing stories, my main resource is my wife and she will only help me think through scenes when we're at home.  The internet for research and my desktop computer are also a home.  I've tried using my laptop various places, including in the woods, at the park, or on a lakeside... but it hasn't worked for me.
            I live in a small house in a low income neighborhood.  My computer is in the living room where there are distractions.  Similarly, I grew up in overcrowded and noisy housing projects full of occupants in a small apartment.  Rather than solitude and quiet that some writers need, I think that I've been conditioned to benefit from distractions.  They seem to increase my productivity.  Last night, for example there were several gunshots in my neighborhood.  I was writing and didn't miss a comma.  I waited until I'd finished the paragraph before I called 911 to report the incident.  Then I went straight back to the story, not having missed a beat.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Robert Eggleton:
I don't have any quirks when I write, but unfortunately for my health, I chain smoke cigarettes and drink way too much coffee and soda when I'm writing.  I don't smoke much and rarely drink soda unless I am writing.  Also, I can't sleep if I have an unresolved scene, not that the scene has to be a final draft, but I can't leave it unresolved or if I get insomnia.  I've gotten out of bed to achieve a semblance of closure in a scene so that I could get some sleep.  Maybe that is a quirk.  What do you think?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where do the ideas for your books come from?

Robert Eggleton:
The ideas for my stories come from real-life experiences.  A great deal of Rarity from the Hollow is exaggerated realism and based on my life, both personal and professional.  I've been a professional social worker for decades.  I've met thousands of people from all walks of life.  I fictionalize and manipulate the attributes of people that I've met to create characters in my stories.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?

Robert Eggleton:
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 Richard 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.  Hitchhiker's 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.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What inspires you the most?

Robert Eggleton:
For me, action inspires more action.  I'm not a big fan of contemplation or procrastination.  This is true even with daily chores, such as house cleaning.  If I will myself to vacuum, for example, by the time I'm finished I'm in the mood to clean the commode.  If I wait for the inspiration to strike me, nothing gets done and willpower becomes more elusive.  I have a strong interest in social causes, such as redistribution of wealth, health care, economic development, children's rights, GLBTQ rights, and coupled with a general sense of fair play probably instilled by my mother.  These and other similar causes prompt me to take some kind of action, something behavioral, which becomes the inspiration for taking the next step.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Robert Eggleton:
Writing comes easy for me.  Real life, such as paying the bills, is much more challenging.  My biggest challenge is to not write so that I have time to take care of practical necessities, such as getting the car in shape to pass inspection, stopping the leak in the roof, planting the garden, etc.  The best sentence structure accomplishable will not put food on the table for the vast majority of great writers.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Robert Eggleton:
For me, a good story is one that delivers more than temporary escapism from life's struggles.  It lingers with an emotional charge depending on the genre long after the last page.  For example, if I read a good romance story, I will have wonderful dreams of my love for days, maybe years after I've finished the story.  A very goo story has the subliminal ability to facilitate the reader's resolution of real life issues.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your book, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your story.

Robert Eggleton:
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.    I hope that readers take away the sense that action empowers one to overcome any real or imagined tragedy.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Robert Eggleton:
Of course, I have a love/hate relationship with all the characters that I've created, including the ones that are not yet in print, and these relationships, just like in real life, such as the relationships between a wife and a husband within a marriage, is in a constant state of flux.  Today, I like Faith the best.  She is a metaphor of the role of religion within modern social structures of industrialized nations.  She was the star in a short story, "Stainless Steel," and plays a host in Rarity from the Hollow: Faith Is Not Dead.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Why did you pick your particular genre?

Robert Eggleton:
I selected the SF/F backdrop for this story because it was the best fit by process of elimination.  The novel also has elements of horror, mystery, romance, self-help, and thriller.  It is not a good example of the historical or western genres, although many of the social issues addressed, such s child maltreatment and sexism, have been present throughout history, including in the Wild West.
            In today's reality, the systems in place to help maltreated children are woefully inadequate.  I felt that the literary, biographical, nonfiction genres wouldn't work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it.
            I felt that the story had to be hopeful.  I wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of folks using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity.  I didn't think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre.  That almost never actually happens in real life, so that genre was too unrealistic as the primary.  There was already enough horror in the story, so that genre was out too.  What could be more horrific than child abuse?
            The protagonist and her traumatized teammates needed fantastical elements to achieve empowerment.  But, as in life, one cannot overcome barriers to the pursuit of happiness by simply imagining them away.  That's where the science fiction came into play.  It provided a power source.  I tied the science fiction to Capitalism because in today's reality it will take significant financial investment by benefactors to significantly improve the welfare of children in the world.  Our governments are unlikely to do so in the near future because of the politics.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating this book?

Robert Eggleton:
My most prominent finding from creating Rarity from the Hollow is that writing is the easiest part of creating a book.  I belong to a local writers' critique group.  Some meetings I feel like telling other members that angst over this or that content is using up their time and energies to build a platform to market.  A million books are now created each year in America.  In my opinion, very few of them are worth the paper that they are no longer printed upon, including the best sellers.  The same criticism could be made about Rarity from the Hollow, so I'm not trying to say that my book is any better than any other.  Virtually every famous author has been subjected to harsh critical comment, including Shakespeare.  I've learned that the most accomplished manuscript stored under a bed until the author dies just becomes part of the trash pile outside of the author's residence if not successfully marketed, and that there are so many ethical dilemmas associated with marketing, from self-published to conglomerate presses, that nothing comes easy.  Writing a great novel is the easy part.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Robert Eggleton:
I wasn't aware that there is something different about my stories until after I began to seriously try to market Rarity from the Hollow.  Recently, I've discovered a major controversy about whether readers will buy books other than those written for pure escapism.  I belong to a large online writers group whose main focus is to debate over this singular issue.  Maybe I've been living in the past - the days of Vonnegut and predecessors within the social science fiction subgenre.  Maybe I didn't realize the impact that Harry Potter had on literature.  Maybe I was in oblivion as I hauled tons of romance novels to my now deceased mother-in-law.  I now realize that it's not just kids who are reading YA novels, and that romance novels have taken over the marketplace, including consumption within all age groupings of both genders.  Ursula K. Le Guin better live to be five hundred years is my closing remark on this question.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Robert Eggleton:
Given health, my productivity with respect writing more Lacy Dawn Adventures and other works in all genres depends on whether I will have to go back to work in order to pay my bills, if anybody will hire someone in a state with fifty percent unemployment who is old enough to retire.  I have a short story, a satirical essay and a poem pending acceptance or rejection letters from publishers.  The next novel, Ivy, is almost ready to send to the publisher for editing.  All that I can promise for certain, as I've done all my life, is that I will continue to work hard.  The rest will be up to higher powers, both Earthly and otherwise, and is beyond my control.  One of those powers is you.  Rarity from the Hollow is in need of honest book reviews by readers on Amazon and Goodreads.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?

Robert Eggleton:
I welcome contacts about Rarity from the Hollow.  People can reach me at: my websitemy Facebook, and on Twitter.


About the author:
Robert Eggleton has served as a children's advocate in an impoverished state 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, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next - never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.  Today, he is a recently retired children's psychotherapist from the mental health care center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns.  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.  Robert continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group therapy services.  The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

About the book:
Lacy Dawn is a little girl who lives in a magical forest where all the trees love her and she has a space alien friend who adores her and wants to make her queen of the universe.  What's more, all the boys admire her for her beauty and brains.  Mommy is very beautiful and Daddy is very smart, and Daddy's boss loves them all.
            Except.
            Lacy Dawn, the eleven year old protagonist, perches precariously between the psychosis of childhood and the multiple neuroses of adolescence, buffeted by powerful gusts of budding sexuality and infused with a yearning to escape the grim and brutal life of a rural Appalachian existence.  In this world, Daddy is a drunk with severe PTSD, and Mommy is an insecure wraith.  The boss is a dodgy lecher, not above leering at the flat chest of an eleven-year-old girl.
            Yes, all in one book.
            It is a children's story for adults with a happily ever after ending.

3 comments:

robert eggleton said...

Thanks again for the amazing spotlight on Rarity from the Hollow, an adult literary science fiction novel, and the great author interview. A lot has happened since the post and I decided to update you and your readers.

The novel is currently in the process of being republished by Dog Horn Publishing, a traditional small press in Leeds. The 2016 Amazon link is: http://www.amazon.com/Rarity-Hollow-Robert-Eggleton-ebook/dp/B017REIA44

Following are some of the highlights about the novel since we last communicated:

As you know, the novel was found by the editor of Atomjack Science Fiction Magazine to be laugh-out-loud funny in some scenes. Long-time science fiction book critic, Barry Hunter, closed his review, "...good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find." http://thebaryonreview.blogspo......

A former Editor of Reader's Digest found that, "Rarity from the Hollow is the most enjoyable science fiction that I've read in several years." http://warriorpatient.com/blog...
Rarity from the Hollow was referred to as a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and awarded a Gold Medal by Awesome Indies: "...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 fans of sci-fi will thoroughly enjoy." http://awesomeindies.net/ai-ap......

With respect to the story's treatment of tough social issues, this reviewer said: "If I could, I would give it all the stars in the universe...I was hesitant to accept. I usually do not read or review books that discuss child abuse or domestic violence; however, I was intrigued by the excerpt and decided to give it a shot. I am glad that I took a risk; otherwise, I would have missed out on a fantastic story with a bright, resourceful, and strong protagonist that grabbed my heart and did not let go." http://www.onmykindle.net/2015...

A prominent book reviewer from Bulgaria named Rarity from the Hollow as one of the best five books that he had read in 2015. http://codices.info/2015/12/to...

On January 20, 2016, Rarity from the Hollow was awarded a second Gold Medal by another popular book review site: https://readersfavorite.com/bo....

An Affiliate of Fantasy Fan Federation, an international organization that has been around since the 1940s, posted on Amazon: "The author has created a new narrative format, something Ive never seen before, with a standard third-person narration, interspersed, lightly, with first-person asides. This makes me think of Eugene ONeills play Strange Interlude where internal and external dialogue are blended. Rarity from the Hollow begins with some rough stuff, hard to read, involving child neglect and child abuse. But it soon turns the corner to satire, parody, and farce, partaking a little of the whimsical and nonsensical humor of Roger Zelazny or even Ron Goulart...."

"...There is much here worthy of high praise. The relationship between Lacy Dawn and DotCom is brilliant. The sense of each learning from the other and them growing up and together is a delight to read. The descriptions of DotCom's technology and the process of elevating the humans around him again is nicely done. Eggleton reminds me very much of Robert Heinlein at his peak...." http://sfcrowsnest.org.uk/rari......

Rarity from the Hollow has now appeared on over one-hundred blogs or magazines worldwide, in twenty-three different countries including all over the U.S. and the U.K., Finland, Mexico, Bulgaria, Belgium, South Africa, Croatia, Uruguay, India, Taiwan, Australia, Nigeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Canada, Vietnam, Portugal, The Netherlands, Sweden, The Philippines, and Israel. The project has grown into a world-wide movement to sensitize people about child maltreatment through a satiric and comical science fiction adventure.

Thanks again for your beautiful spotlight!

robert eggleton said...

The paperback version of second edition of Rarity from the Hollow was released on November 3, 2016: http://www.lulu.com/shop/robert-eggleton/rarity-from-the-hollow/paperback/product-22910478.html It will be released in eBook formats soon. Thanks again for the amazing author interview!

robert eggleton said...

The final edition of Rarity from the Hollow 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 .