Interview with Robert Eggleton
Q1.How did you start your writing career?
A: In the 8th grade, I won the school’s short story contest: a redneck semi truck driver became so obsessed with the conflict between Jewish vs. Christian theology that he lost concentration on the road and caused a terrible accident. I decided that I wanted to be a writer and dreamed of getting rich. As it often does, life got in the way.
During college, 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. After college, I focused on children’s advocacy. I got so involved in this emotionally charged work that for the next forty years, I supplanted my need to write fiction by writing nonfiction: manuals, research, investigative, and statistical reports about local children’s services systems and institutions, many of which were published by the WV Supreme Court where I worked from ’83 through ‘97.
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, I met the real-life role model for my fictional protagonist. Lacy Dawn had been severely abused, but was so resilient that it was inspired everybody who met her, staff and her peers alike, including me.
I started writing fiction. 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. It is may be reprinted sometime this year. In May 2015, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist so that I could concentrate on writing fiction that introduces Lacy Dawn to the rest of the world.
Q2. Tell us about your current release.
A: 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.
Q3. Who are your favorite authors and biggest influences?
A: 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 R. 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. Hitchhikers 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.
Q4. What does your significant other and family think of your writing career?
A: I’ve been married for forty-four years and have a forty-one year old son. They both think that I’m nuts, and, of course, they’re right. Both of them proof read my work, make comments about plot and substance, and my son is an IT specialist who makes emergency house calls to my home to keep my computer alive. My wife is the smartest person I’ve ever met, seriously, so I bug her all the time to bounce around ideas, and she doesn’t complain about it too much. The rest of my family is very supportive, but a few of them don’t like for me to use curse words or sexual content, even if it fits a character’s personality. The passing of my wife’s mother was not only a sorrowful experience, but a big loss to my writing. She was the type of woman who could argue for an hour about which Chicago Cub baseball player had the cutest butt, and she had a serious romance novel addiction. I could always go to her for advice. Whether or not my writing is a second career depends on you, the readers. Regardless, my family just wants me to be happy, and that’s what I want for each of them too.
Q5. Who are your books published with?
A: Dog Horn Publishing is a traditional small press located in Leeds, a long way from West Virginia and a place that I would love to visit, but am unlikely to ever afford to go. Adam Lowe is the owner. He didn’t charge me a cent to edit, create the book cover, or to print Rarity from the Hollow. I have been paid royalties, half of which have been donated to a child abuse prevention program in my home state. Adam has won a zillion awards (a slight exaggeration, but not much of one) and is very active in the GLBTQ movement in England, about which I’m proud to have an indirect association. He posts some very funny stuff on Facebook if anybody is interested in a giggle.
Q6. How do you react to a bad review of your book?
A: Rarity from the Hollow has never received a negative review, except for a fake one by a fellow who posted on Goodreads that he was tired of apocalyptic novels. There is nothing remotely close to apocalyptic in this story. I sent him a private message to ask for clarification, probably a mistake and one that I will never make again, but the fellow did not reply. No harm, no foul – whew! My novel has received several reviews, some by expert book critics, and all reviews have been glowing so far. Keep your fingers crossed. A former Editor of Reader’s Digest posted that Rarity from the Hollow was the best science fiction that he’d read in several years. Of course, my story has also been referred to as a love story, horror, social commentary, satire…. I guess that it’s all a matter of what one reads into the story instead of the story itself. I have resolved, however, that if I do get a negative review, I will not complain or argue about it. People have opinions – different strokes for different folks. So, if you decide to read Rarity from the Hollow, and I hope that you will, I welcome your input. I depend on it to become a stronger writer.
Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate 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. Today, he is a recently retired psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia. 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/
You can find Robert on a range of platforms: