Published by Dog Horn Publishing on 3-16-2012
Genres: Science Fiction
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Interview With Robert Eggleton
Can you talk a little about what the book is about?
Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. The story includes elements of fantasy, everyday horror, paranormal, romance, magical realism, and adventure, with content that addresses social issues – poverty, child maltreatment, and the medicinal use of marijuana. This novel is not for the prudish, fainthearted or easily offended.
It is a children’s story for adults. While the protagonist, Lacy Dawn, occupies the body of an eleven year old, and sounds like one, she 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.
Lacy Dawn lives in Appalachia with her worn-out mom, her Iraq War disabled dad, and her mutt Brownie, a dog who’s becoming very skilled at installing fiber optic cable. Her android boyfriend, for when she’s old enough to have one, has come to the hollow with a mission. He was sent by the Manager of the Mall on planet Shptiludrp (Shop ’till You Drop) to recruit this version of Lacy Dawn. Management has concluded that the demise the universal economic structure is in imminent. Will Lacy Dawn’s magic enable her to save the universe, Earth, and, most importantly, her own family?
What makes your book unique?
Frankly, Michael, I didn’t realize that Rarity from the Hollow would be received as an unusual novel while I was writing it. As book reviews started rolling in, the opinion that my novel was regarded as unique became apparent – most reviewers have used the term “unique” or a synonym in their reviews. One of the most prominent statements about the uniqueness of the novel was by an Awesome Indies reviewer resulting in a God Medal:
“…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. In fact, the rustic humor and often graphic language employed by Lacy Dawn and her compatriots only serve to highlight their desperate lives, and their essential toughness and resilience….”
Of course, the concept of something being unique is relative. I’m certainly not the first author to use a child’s voice for social commentary. Heinlein used juvenile voice to address serious race and gender issue of his day. All kinds of novels contain colloquial dialogue, i.e. The Color Purple. Maybe Rarity from the Hollow is somewhat more literary than most speculative fiction, but Ursula K. LeGuinn gave folks a lot of food for thought after the last page of her novels had been turned, and even Harry Potter made an antiracism statement when he freed Dobby, the House Elf that is still under consideration by millions of fans.
Let me turn your question on its ear for a minute: why are so many science fiction titles, especially young adult releases, similar in style? It may not be that Rarity from the Hollow is unique, but that sameness has crept into science fiction. In the ‘60s, a Beat Poet named Ferlinghetti warned the public about the risks associated with literature being controlled by conglomerate publishers. Today, there are five big publishers that, in essence, control what is made available to consumers to read. Sure, philosophically, one could argue that editors are not practicing censorship simply by asserting formula sales models, or that “Ban the Book” is dead, and that Indie publishing has opened the door to anything that the mind can create. In reality, one can only read what one is aware that is available to read, and I’m here to tell you more about a novel that some book reviewers and readers think is unique, perhaps because they have gotten used to books fitting neatly into genre expectations.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I’ve worked in the field of children’s advocacy for over forty years. In 2002, I went to work as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center. It was an intensive day program for severely emotionally disturbed kids, many of whom had been maltreated and were experiencing related traumas. Part of my job was the facilitation of group therapy sessions. One day in 2006, a skinny little girl not only disclosed detail about her victimization, but continued to speak of her hopes and dreams for the future. Her resilience was inspiring to everyone. Before the end of that work day I had a protagonist and an outline for Rarity from the Hollow – a powerful female protagonist who doesn’t have an ounce of sex appeal, doesn’t carry a sword or light saber, and who is destined to save the universe, her own family first, of course. While Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, is a composite of many children that I’ve met over the years, her core is the little girl who sat around the table from me during group therapy that day in 2006.
Is there any message you want readers to get from reading the book?
There are many messages in Rarity from the Hollow. I think of it as adult literary social science fiction. Of course, such a moniker is too much for practical use, like self-promotion.
The messages will likely not 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.
Rarity from the Hollow addressed: 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 messages 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 Rarity from the Hollow have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia: http://www.childhswv.org/
How long did it take to write the book?
It took about six months to write Rarity from the Hollow during the evenings. Well, actually I would stay up all night writing and still go to work the next mornings. It took another six months of working with an editor, but part of the reason that this took so long was because she wanted to work from paper – manuscripts mailed back and forth, editing symbols in the margins that I had to learn…. Then, it took another couple of months working with a different editor using electronic copies. After all this work, a there was still a formatting problem in the final print. Most readers have not noticed and it affects transitions between voices. Rarity for the Hollow will be reprinted soon. The publisher reported that the paperback stock has been depleted. The formatting problem will be corrected in the new paperback and eBook. Part of this work has already been done. So, I guess that the current version of Rarity from the Hollow could be considered an Advance Reader Copy because it’s still in the works.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
Brownie, the family mutt in Rarity from the Hollow, was the most fun to write and is my personal favorite character. His comedy was so flat that it takes the punch lines a while to register. Balancing his dog-like instincts with Einstein brilliance was a hoot.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
Yes, I used a general outline when writing Rarity from the Hollow and the story did take me in unexpected directions as it was being written, which I would use as filler in the outline for guidance. Personally, I like to have a map before going on a trip to an unfamiliar location, but even the best maps cannot predict all road conditions. The outline that I used was flexible and evolving until the story reached the end.
If you could go back and change anything in the novel, what would it be?
Rarity from the Hollow just received a glowing book review, five stars: “If I could, I would give it all the stars in the universe….” http://www.onmykindle.net/2015/11/rarity-from-hollow.html Today, I wouldn’t go back and change anything about the novel if I could. On and off, however, depending on a book reviewers comments, I’ve wished to change this or that: cut down on the toilet humor even though it was very appropriate for the adolescent characters; make if more clear that Lacy Dawn is older and wiser than the android even though she speaks in a colloquial adolescent voice; and not include the embarrassment and annoyance of spontaneous penile erections during the adolescent sexual development of the android (after he grows some junk), as examples. Of course, what I’ve been doing has been reactive to critical comments by book reviewers. Except for fixing the formatting issue and a putting back in a couple of inadvertently omitted short words, the novel is what it is: Rarity from the Hollow. I can go back to change something since it is being reprinted / republished, but I’ve decided that it would be a mistake.
How did you come up with the cover?
Rarity from the Hollow is science fiction cross genre. That makes cover art a difficult assignment. It has had three book covers, none have communicated to a specific targeted audience. All of the covers have been great. The second one was done by Jag Lall, English comic book artist (pro bono). The last one was by Adam Lowe, the owner of Dog Horn Publishing. Since the last one has been used so much, it’s probably not a good idea to change the cover again, and I doubt if anybody could come up with a perfect cover for this novel. However, an artist is trying now to give her artistic impression of the novel. If and when she feels comfortable with release, I’ll post it here and there. She does great work, but a cover for Rarity from the Hollow would be a difficult assignment.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I started dreaming about becoming a rich and famous author after winning the short story contest in the eighth grade, 1965. Between work and school, and more work, life got in the way. I would start stories but wouldn’t finish them. It was much harder before computers were introduced – white out correction fluid, start at the beginning of the page to reformat a paragraph…. Of course, the difficulty also kept down the competition. Only the most determined would get something in shape to submit, or the richest because they could afford to hire typists. Now, almost anybody can write a story. It’s much easier because of the more advanced technology. But, the slush piles of magazines have become so high, almost insurmountable, daunting.
I’ve already told you about what triggered my determination to write a novel – meeting Lacy Dawn during a group therapy session that I was facilitating at our local mental health center where I worked in 2006. Six months ago, my desire to spend more time writing fiction became so overwhelming that I retired from my job. The way I look at it, if Andy Weir can spend almost three years self-promoting The Martian before it hit a good lick, I’m all in, devoted to the investment that it requires to be an author.
What was the first story that you ever wrote?
The first story that I completed was “God Sent,” the one that I just mentioned and that triggered my dream of becoming an author. It was about a semi truck driver so consumed with theological debate that he lost concentration on the road and caused a terrible car accident. I cheated though, the driver dies in the end of the story and we never find out what happens after sentient beings cease to exist. I may pick up where I left off with that story one day. Maybe we all will finish writing that one.
What is your favorite genre, and why?
I read in every genre, including romance. And, I almost always finish the books even if I’m not particularly impressed. For reading, I like complex characters with flaws and a story that one might think about on and off for months or even years after having turned its last page. I’m not into simplistic action adventures, good vs. evil type of plots, very much but I will read them. Personally, I think these types of stories are better told on TV or film with the special effects making up for lack of convolutions.
I’d like to think that I could write in every genre too, but the only one that I’ve tried so far has been speculative fiction. I toned down one story to fit YA because the Editor of Beyond Centauri told me that YA was the only way he would publish it. I think that I need a little more discipline to keep within the YA genre because my writing tends to get a little too wild to fit there. I love the concept of YA literature, an alternative to video games for kids. I do also think, however, that good adult science fiction and fantasy can be hard to find. It seems correlated with the popularity of Harry Potter – the decline in availability of speculative fiction for adults. My plan is to write first, and then try to fit it into a genre box later.
Are there any books you are absolutely inspired by?
I’ve already mentioned how inspiring that the success of The Martian was to my own efforts at self-promotion of Rarity from the Hollow. I’m easy to inspire. It doesn’t take much to get my imagination on a rollercoaster or to influence my behavior toward what I feel is a good cause, such as related to world hunger, medical care…. If it would be possible to combine The Color Purple with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that would be totally inspirational to me.
What are you working on next?
Unfortunately, self-promotion of Rarity from the Hollow has been so intrusive into my writing interests that I feel like a creative marketer with no financial backing. I’ve learned a lot though. I thought that I had the next Lacy Dawn Adventure, Ivy, ready for editing by the publisher’s staff. Based on my self-promotion I’ve decided that the novel may be too outrageous. Most book reviewers have called Rarity from the Hollow unique or a synonym in their reviews. Without book reviews, the greatest novel published will sink. I’ve started to rework the manuscript of Ivy so that it’s a better fit to somewhat conditions, cookie-cutter type, reader expectations. I’ll keep the original intact, but tone down what I’ll send to the publisher, soon. That’s what I’ve been working on.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My best advice to aspiring authors would be to find your own path. What worked for successful authors today might be a total flop, outdated for you tomorrow. This is a rapidly changing business with no hard and fast rules except to always change your underwear. No, I’m kidding. I recommend that aspiring authors start when they are young and don’t give up when it doesn’t feel fun anymore, and it will likely feel “not fun anymore” for many aspiring authors. The marketplace is highly competitive, possibly cutthroat, and if you sink to such a level your first keystroke of your first story may have been a mistake. Authorship is one of the most distinguished roles in society, and I believe that aspiring authors will find the balance between work and play when honoring the profession.
How do you juggle writing with family time?
Juggling writing and family time is easier for me than it would be if I were younger. My son is forty-one years old and independent. It’s hard to imagine a young father or mother finding time to write, especially the time to self-promote their writing.
I belong to an on-line writer’s group that is comprised of persons my age and who are just now getting started on a writing career. I don’t have any demographic data but it appears that there are a disproportionate number of young writers on Goodreads. The years between being a student and being retired, the middle, appear to be especially challenging for aspiring authors, including those who have already had a measure of success.
During my self-promotion of Rarity from the Hollow, I couldn’t count the number of sites that I’ve come across owned by once somewhat known authors who had abandoned their sites without a link. I would love to have back some of the years that have passed, but, as you suggested, finding the balance between writing and family would like be problematic if the genie in the bottle granted me all three wishes: youth, a clear mission in literature, and a strong family support system.