Kicking off another round of my “Getting to Know You” features, today with Robert Eggleton, author of Rarity from the Hollow.
Tell us a little about your current novel, what readers can expect from it..
Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. In a nutshell, it’s a story of victimization to empowerment. The protagonist, Lacy Dawn, begins the adventure as an eleven year old most unlikely savoir of the universe. She lives in an impoverished hollow in West Virginia with a war-damage father and a worn out mom. However, her genetics have been manipulated for millennia. When a threat to the survival of the economic structure of the universe becomes imminent, an android is sent to Earth to recruit and train her to fulfil her destiny.
Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first. Based loosely on Donald Trump’s rise to political power, she negotiates the best deal by insisting that her parents be cured of their mental health disorders. Once her team has been assembled, it travels to planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop) a giant shopping mall and the center of universal governance where she meets Mr Prump (Donald Trump) and Mr. Rump (Bernie Sanders).
The adventure is filled with tragedy, comedy, and satire. The original © on the story was 2006 by a press that went defunct a month after its release. Dog Horn Publishing in Leeds, a traditional small press, picked up the project in 2012 and produced an Advance Review Copy (ARC) that circulated for several years before the final version was published in December 2016. The ARC was awarded Gold Medals by two major review organizations and was named one of the five best books of 2015 along side of Revival by Stephen King and The Martian by Andy Weir. Its political allegory is much more obvious now that Donald Trump has become a household name. Without political advocacy except to sensitize readers to the huge social problem of world-wide child maltreatment, the story addresses many issues that are being debated today, such as immigration, the refugee crisis, exploitation of underdeveloped territories for minerals, extreme capitalism vs. democratic socialism…. The backdrop of the story is adult literary science fiction, but there are elements of horror, paranormal, and romance.
Author proceeds support the prevention of child abuse.
Where did you grow up and what was family life like?
I grew up in an impoverished family in West Virginia, similar to the Earth setting for the novel. Also similar to the story, my father had war-related PTSD with night terrors and temper outbursts when intoxicated. I’m the oldest of four children. My loving mother did the best that she could to protect and feed us. I began working odd jobs, cutting grass, shoveling snow…as a child and began paying into the U.S. Social Security fund at age twelve after getting a job cleaning an stocking shelves at a drug store. At the time, pharmacies were the paperback marts of many small towns. That’s when I started reading fiction by borrowing novels off of the store’s shelves and returning them in same-as new condition. My father caught our rented house on fire by smoking while laying on the couch a year later and was killed. I was at work at a gas station, a second job, at the time and the rest of the family had gone to visit my grandmother – nobody else was hurt in the fire. Afterward, we moved into a housing project where I lived until I graduated from high school.
Academic or creative at school?
Frankly, looking back, I think that I was mostly dissociative during my public school years. I was there physically, but missed out on a lot of basic education because I was not there mentally – “spaced out.” In the eighth grade I won our school’s short story competition. That’s when my aspiration to become a rich and famous author began. In college, one of my poems was published by the West Virginia Student Anthology. A couple more were published in alternative zines, and I’ve written stories and poems for as long as I can remember, but I rarely shared them with others, especially not with peers at school. Academically, I barely got through high school but snapped out of my funk in college where I graduated above a 3.0 g.p.a., and began to perform in graduate school where I graduated with a perfect 4.0.
First job you *really* wanted to do?
During childhood, before food stamps were available, I was the primary bread winner for my family. I “really” wanted to do each and every job for which I would get paid. I’ve worked all the way through school and really wanted to do well at every job even after my family became eligible for food stamps and public housing. As the oldest, I would buy new clothing, not Goodwill, and presents for my siblings and mother. After college, I accepted a job as a drug counselor for adolescents who had been court-committed to treatment. That was the first job that I really wanted to do for reasons beyond fiscal.
Do you remember the moment you first wanted to write?
Growing up, my family didn’t have the money to buy toys for us kids, for a television, telephone, or to go to the movies. For entertainment, I began writing short stories, sometimes on flattened paper grocery bags. In grade school, I can’t remember which grade, I shared one of my stories with a gas station attendant who worked across the highway. With a big smile after he had read my story, he said that he loved it. From that point forward, I really wanted to write.
Who are your real life heroes?
Not counting those great people who I admire, like Rosa Parks and M.L.K., Abby Hoffman, J.F.K, Georgia O’Keefe, John Lennon, Mark Twain…, my biggest real life hero would be my grandmother. I’ll tell you why. It was her integrity and strength in sticking to convictions. Mattie was a fundamentalist Christian (I’m not) who read the Bible every day. She went to church every time that its doors were open. The way she read the Bible, it was a sin for a woman to cut her hair. Mattie’s hair was never cut. She wore it in a bun on top of her head. When we kids would beg her to, she would release it – all the way to the floor and two feet beyond. After television became available, she wasn’t sure about them. She considered whether or not to watch television would be a sin for nine years before she permitted my uncle to buy her one, and then mostly watched religious shows. Her son, another uncle of mine, was put in our state penitentiary when he was fourteen years old for being a back-seat passenger in a car owned by the father of one of his friends and which had been taken without permission — joyriding. My grandmother wrote him a letter every day for those nine years. Since the mail didn’t run on Sundays, that meant that my uncle got two letters from her on Monday. From the day that I remember meeting her until Mattie’s death, I never heard or curse, or express any bigotry, anger, or even an unkind word to or about another human being. She raised her children with the same values. That’s why I ended up with the most wonderful mother anybody could hope for despite the adversities that she faced. Mattie is my real life hero.
Funniest or most embarrassing situation you’ve found yourself in?
In 1990, I was placed on the agenda to make a speech to a joint committee of our State Legislature about the status of juvenile services. West Virginia has a beautiful Capitol building with old trees in the surrounding lawns – the home for lots of squirrels and pigeons. It was one of my first of several similar speeches, so I was a little nervous. At the time, finding a parking spot was a challenge, so I’d left home early. By the time that I’d parked my car, time was getting a little tight. I rushed to the East Wing. On the way, a pigeon pooped on the right shoulder of my suit jacket. I glanced into the meeting room on my way to the restroom to clean it off – it was packed, at least a couple hundred people in the audience. I made the speech with a huge and very obvious wet spot.
DIY expert or phone a friend?
I’m definitely a phone a friend type of person. My wife is highly active when I’m writing, for example. We’ve been married for forty-five years. Rita is the most knowledgeable person that I’ve ever met. As I mentioned before, I missed out on a lot of basic education, so I bug her all the time despite spell check.
Before YouTube, I would usually ask more that one friend if I was uncertain about something, including how to fix an engine, washer…. Today, I always search the internet for instructions and information before initiating an action about which I’m unsure. For example, our dishwasher just broke down. It looks like the water inlet valve went out. I’ve never worked on a dishwasher before, so I’m still searching for info before I spend $45 on a replacement valve.
Sun worshipper or night owl?
I used to love the sun. The beach was my favorite vacation spot and the only time that I totally relaxed. Ten years ago, a small spot on the side of my nose was diagnosed as basal cell skin cancer. I figure it was from working construction on the weekends off from my in-the-office jobs, but, today, I’m less fond of the sun.
When I’m writing, since I’ve retired – I was a children’s psychotherapist most recently – I will sometimes stay up all night working on something. But, between projects I keep regular hours.
A book that had you in tears.
Push is the 1996 debut novel by American author Sapphire. It was a real life story about an illiterate sixteen year old girl living in Harlem who was pregnant with her second child after having been raped by her father. Twelve years after its release, Push was turned into a movie, Precious, that won two Academy Awards. I knew that I shouldn’t, but I read the book after seeing the movie. While there were moments of kindness and positives as a special teacher and others helped Precious, overall this was a depressing story, especially when she was diagnosed with HIV. Worse, while the book never reaches closure, in real-life, Precious died of the disease.
Precious was inspiring for me. While I wanted Rarity from the Hollow to sensitize readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment, I also didn’t want to write anything nearly as depressing as Push. While I appreciated this masterpiece, it pushed me in the opposite direction. I decided to write something that addressed this social problem, but through a comical and satiric adventure — something that was fun to read. Something that people would remember to help needful kids because the enjoy reading the novel.
On this topic, the ARC of Rarity from the Hollow was awarded two Gold Medals, the first of which gave me a special sense of pride in achieving my goal: “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…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/
A book that made you laugh out loud.
Every book written by Kurt Vonnegut made me laugh out loud. He’s another one of my heroes like we talked about before. I was flattered when a book critic of the Rarity from the Hollow ARC found: “…In the spirit of Vonnegut, Eggleton (a psychotherapist focused on the adolescent patient) takes the genre and gives it another quarter turn….” http://electricrev.net/2014/08/12/a-universe-on-the-edge/
One piece of life advice you give everyone.
Maybe you’ve heard this before. This advice was given to me by my aunt after I had been picked on at grade school one day: “Bobby, don’t let the butt holes get you down.” This advice has served me well ever since.
About the book:
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.
Rarity from the Hollow is adult literary science fiction filled with tragedy, comedy and satire. A Children’s Story. For Adults.
“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.”
—Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest
“Quirky, profane, disturbing… In the space between a few lines we go from hardscrabble realism to pure sci-fi/fantasy. It’s quite a trip.”
— Evelyn Somers, The Missouri Review
. “…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse…tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…profound…a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” — Awesome Indies (Gold Medal)
“…sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved…a brilliant writer.” –Readers’ Favorite (Gold Medal)
“Rarity from the Hollow is an original and interesting story of a backwoods girl who saves the Universe in her fashion. Not for the prudish.” —Piers Anthony, New York Times bestselling author
“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review