Today I have the author of Rarity From the Hollow, Robert Eggleton in my first ever author spotlight and author interview. I have recently read and reviewed Rarity From the Hollow. You can read it here. First things first, I’ll start with providing some background of the author followed by a blurb of the book.
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 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. http://www.childhswv.org/ 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.
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 isn’t great. But Lacy has one advantage — she’s been befriended by a semi-organic, semi-robot who works with her to cure her parents. He wants something in exchange, though. It’s up to her to save the Universe.
To prepare Lacy for her coming task, she is being schooled daily via direct downloads into her brain. Some of these courses tell her how to apply magic to resolve everyday problems much more pressing to her than a universe in big trouble, like those at home and at school. She doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her own family and friends come first.
Will Lacy Dawn’s predisposition, education, and magic be enough for her to save the Universe, Earth, and, most importantly, protect her own family?
Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. It is a children’s story for adults, not for the prudish, faint of heart, or easily offended.
Rarity From the Hollow has been awarded two gold medals:
Hello, Robert! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I’m so glad to have you here today.
Hi, Olivia. Thank you for the opportunity to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow, especially its mission to raise sensitivity to the issue of child maltreatment.
- Can you give us a brief introduction to child abuse?
Child maltreatment is a world-wide phenomenon without clear definition. What one person believes to have been abusive, another may consider as appropriate child discipline, and these views may be influenced by cultures, societal norms, or religions. While prevalence rate is difficult to come up with, approximately one quarter of all adults believe that they were maltreated as children – physically, sexually, psychologically….
Many jurisdictions have enacted laws to protect children and sanctions that punish offenders. “On an international level, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was formed in 1989, and (ironically) the U.S. and Somalia are the only two of the now 194 member countries that have failed to ratify the CRC’s treaty regarding children’s human rights internationally.” http://www.hg.org/children-rights.html
There are many predisposing factors theorized to contribute to child maltreatment – poverty, mental illness or substance abuse by the parent… — any many similar correlates to societal ills caused by child maltreatment – crime, dependency, mental illness….
Let me illustrate the complexity of this huge social problem by talking about my novel. Most readers of Rarity from the Hollow have found that Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, is an abused child. I think so, as well.
Dwayne, Lacy’s father, is a disabled Veteran suffering from PTSD and who has night terrors and rages during which he switches Lacy and her mother, sometimes leaving scars. Within the story, however, all characters believe that Dwayne is exercising “spare the rod and spoil the child” type of discipline based on Biblical interpretation, and is well within his role as a good father and husband.
Before I go any farther and give your readers the impression that Rarity from the Hollow is a depressing story, it’s not. One of several book review found when awarding the novel the first of two Gold Medals: “…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.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/
I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist and have served maltreated children for over forty years. Some of these children were taken from parents based on findings that they had been abused while others were kids not involved with the courts for a number of reasons. Over these years, it was very, very rare that I didn’t believe a child’s version of how she or he had been raised, and most often I personally believed that the child had been maltreated, but that doesn’t make it so, not legally. To make this matter even more complicated, the vast majority of abusive parents appeared to love the child, and it was common for abused children to love their parents.
When writing Rarity from the Hollow, I didn’t want to oversimplify such a complex issue as child maltreatment into a typical good vs. evil theme. Yes, child maltreatment is evil, one of the most evil things imaginable, a defenseless child, after all, but it is also complex. My introduction to this social problems, consequently, is that child maltreatment is likely significantly under-reported, it exists in all communities worldwide, yes, including in your own back yards, we all have a responsibility to ensure child welfare, and that each situation of suspected child maltreatment requires individualized assessment and treatment.
- Of all the heavy issues, why did you choose to focus on child abuse?
Child abuse is one of several topics covered in the social commentary of Rarity from the Hollow. Faith, Lacy Dawn’s BFF in the story, is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. However, there are no scenes and this aspect of the story is only mentioned twice. Faith plays an annoying and comical ghost most of the story. The other heavy issues in the novel include: mental illness, including PTSD experienced by Veterans of war; poverty; substance abuse; domestic violence; legalization of marijuana….
As I mentioned before, child abuse is a complex problem that doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Many readers have connected with the child abuse element, perhaps because some of them were victimized as children, as well. Look again at the estimated prevalence rate. This may be why child abuse becomes most prominent for some readers.
In any case, I didn’t pick child abuse to be part of the story. It was part of story of the real-life Lacy Dawn who inspired me to write the novel.
- Okay, why don’t you tell us about that? What inspired you to start writing Rarity from the Hollow?
I’ve dreamed of having my fiction published since winning the eighth grade short story contest in 1964. I guess that it was a dream similar to those of some kids about becoming a rock music or a sports star – I never expected it to come true and put little serious effort into its pursuit. Instead, I went into the field of child welfare where I spent over forty years in various positions advocating for children’s rights.
In 2002, I took a job as a children’s therapist in an intensive day program at our local mental health center. Part of my job was the facilitation of group therapy sessions for participants, many of whom had been abused, some sexually. One day in 2006 during a group therapy 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. The protagonist for Rarity from the Hollow 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 home. I’ve continued to write about Lacy Dawn and her science fiction adventures when facing real-life barriers to success and happiness that many others face in real-life.
I was fortunate. I found a traditional small press that was interested in my writing. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. This means that I didn’t have to pay any money to have it edited or published, and that’s a good thing because I’ve never made much of a salary in my career – it’s not something that one goes into for the money. However, it also means that I’m responsible for almost all of the promotions of the novel – to tell prospective readers that it exists because small presses do not have advertising budgets like big publishers. I still get discouraged when self-promoting my novel, and I still think about that little girl working so hard toward her dream of finding a loving family. It’s inspiring – try it!
4. Most of the books addressing child abuse have a tone of reality in it. Why did you choose such a bizarre variety of genres, namely fantasy, romance and science fiction, for Rarity from the Hollow?
I selected the literary science fiction backdrop for Rarity from the Hollow 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 the social issues that we talked about before 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 Rarity form the Hollow 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 improve the welfare of children in the world.
5. Do you plan on writing the continuation on Lacy Dawn’s life?
The next Lacy Dawn Adventures is called Ivy and asks the question: how far will a child go to save a parent from addiction? Heroin addiction is a scourge in America. West Virginia where I live has the highest overdose death rate in the nation. Addiction is problematic world-wide, so the sequel to Rarity from the Hollow will continue to reach out to a wide audience using a microcosm technique.
6. What were your feelings when you wrote Rarity from the Hollow?
We’ve already talked about how Rarity from the Hollow bends genre and how the science fiction is a backdrop. I felt a myriad of emotions when writing it, but overall I felt insecure. Could I pull it off, combining tragedy and comedy…? My insecurity was relieved when the novel won a Gold Medal from a major book review company with a finding:
“a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…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.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/
7. Rarity from the Hollow is said to be a children’s book meant for adults. Do you think that child abuse should be something children should be aware about?
Let me first respond to your question by asserting that all adults should be aware of child maltreatment and that we all have a responsibility as adults to protect the welfare of children, worldwide. The world can be a scary place for all of us, especially children, but our fears cannot be diminished with ignorance, by sticking our heads in the sand. I do not believe that it would be appropriate to spread any more fear about anything, and I guess that’s what distinguishes true education from propaganda – relevant facts that are digestible and presented without a prompt for overreaction.
At the earliest age possible, I believe that all children should be educated by their parents, in child care centers, at church, and in schools about “good touch, bad touch” and about their legal rights to seek remedy, to tell someone in authority, if they are victimized by anybody, including bullies at school. However, I don’t believe that this content should be presented emotionally, or in any way that would cause children to be fearful.
8. What are your opinions on ways to stop child abuse?
In my opinion, the first step in stopping child abuse is to help others realize that it is a realistic goal. Some people that I’ve met over the years seem to believe that it’s impossible to prevent child abuse, so why try? Based on my experience, not only is child maltreatment preventable, if people become sensitized to the issue, and I hope that Rarity from the Hollow helps a little, it would be in the best ethical and fiscal interests of any jurisdiction to do so. In addition to the heart-warming goal of “saving children” (my cause but perhaps not the cause of others), society’s failure to prevent child maltreatment contributes to an assortment of ills that becomes increasingly expensive to address.
Secondly, once prevention of child abuse is accepted as a worthwhile goal, the next step is honesty: to face the complexity of the problem without oversimplification. Historically, systemic responses to child maltreatment have sometimes damaged already damaged children. It’s still happening. We have set up interventions that depend on blaming. Either the child or the parent has to be “found guilty” for the services to be made available. This leaves a lot of needy people ineligible for services because the situation has not yet come to the attention of “officials” or when it does, the case is simply dismissed because of technical deficiencies in the court or social services cases.
A lot of child abuse would be prevented by the establishment of voluntary community-based services accessible by parents and children. It must be a more powerful model than Parenting Education or Guidance Counseling in schools. As examples: local support groups for expectant mothers, such as those who have been maltreated themselves as children; referrals to treatment providers for parents addicted to drugs or alcohol, or who have mental health concerns exasperated by stress or poverty; highly confidential personal counseling in schools, accessible without stigma, to which children can seek assistance…. Many communities already have nonprofit agencies where these and other add-on programs could be based, such as Children’s Home Society of WV (CHSWV) that author proceeds from Rarity from the Hollow have been donated to: http://www.childhswv.org/
If you check out what’s offered by this agency, adoption services is prominent. Let’s face it. Some people are just not cut out to become parents. There are many wonderful couples who would love to adopt children. Back in the ‘80s when I worked for CHSWV as the director of emergency shelters, a married couple that I’d gone to college with showed up. I’d lost touch with them over the years and they with me, so I had no part in them approaching the agency to seek the adoption of a child. Going on three decades later, the baby that this couple adopted has now graduated from college and is working for a local Department of Human Services office. Guess what she does? Yep, child protective services. I get goose bumps thinking about this success story. This is an example of a story that could be shared starting in public schools to reduce stigma associated with unplanned or misguided pregnancies.
Thirdly, and perhaps most difficult to accomplish despite notable success in doing so, we must learn to respect the child voice as it affects personal lives. Juvenile justice systems blame children who are actually victims and symptomatic of trauma. We treat some of them as if they are criminals. To “save” children we have put them in large institutions, now often called residential treatment centers, where some stay for years, while others bounce from one temporary foster home to the next.
I’m not saying that the kids are always “right” about what’s best for them in order to prevent abuse or when society’s systems respond to substantiated maltreatment. I am saying that if the adult experts – the social workers, judges, lawyers, doctors… – when these helpers discount or devalue the child’s perspective on the situation something very bad happens despite the best intentions of the adults to help that child. Every child in such a traumatic situation as maltreatment must feel as if her or his voice was heard and respected, especially when they don’t get what they “want” to happen. My belief is one reason that child voice in Rarity from the Hollow was so powerful. In the story, Lacy Dawn not only controlled her destiny, but saved the universe because the entrenched systems in place gave her room to operate. Regardless of circumstances, even if the adults are very “busy,” the capacity of children to hold opinions must be respected or we, as a society, risks perpetuation of a cycle of abuse. Victim empowerment is the key to child abuse prevention.
- Any advice that you would like to share the readers and the public about child abuse?
Even if you don’t believe that Rarity from the Hollow fits your reading interests, please consider the higher purposes related to child abuse prevention. I’m not asking you to buy a book that you don’t want to read, or to value a book because the author proceeds support a good cause. Absolutely not. Instead, I’m asking you to look around in your communities and find likely underfunded programs to which you can contribute. Speak to your children and encourage them to listen to their peers, truly listening if one of them brings up a sensitive matter, like having been abused, bullied, or raped. Everybody can do something to put an end to this huge social problem, even if it’s just sending a small gift to your local emergency children’s shelter anonymously.
- What is your favourite motivational phrase?
My favorite motivational phase is: “If you always do what is right, it will turn out alright in the end.” I’m not exactly sure what that phrase means or when “the end” refers to, but that phrase has kept me motivated toward good.
To purchase Rarity from the Hollow, there are several ways you can do this, by using these links:
To contact author Robert Eggleton and find out more about his novel, Rarity from the Hollow, these links would be helpful: