AUTHOR INTERVIEW 47

Robert Eggleton

United Stated

Age 69

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 never-ending Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend gets 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. 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.

Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR ARTISTIC PROCESS?

Robert Eggleton: The most difficult part of the artistic process is avoiding the contagion of disappointment. After forty years of successfully writing nonfiction in the field of child welfare, I wrote my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow. Three short stories of mine had been published in magazines in 2006. All three publications are now defunct. I’ve met hundreds of highly talented people, many of whom were writers themselves and owned blogs that published materials that I had submitted, most of whom have also given up. Forums that I used to interact on with other aspiring writers have gone under, now replaced with sometimes very expensive marketing opportunities. Given my limited budge, sometimes I get discouraged that more people have not been exposed to my novel and, for me, that is the most difficult part of the artistic process – maintaining determination.

Romelia: DOES YOUR FAMILY SUPPORT YOUR CAREER AS A WRITER?

Robert Eggleton: I’m married and we have one adult son. They support my writing activity and contribute by reading and commenting on my works.

Romelia: IF YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENTLY AS A CHILD OR TEENAGER TO BECOME A BETTER WRITER AS AN ADULT, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Robert Eggleton: I began writing short stories as a child, sharing them in the community – peers, neighbors, shop keepers, service station attendants…. In the eighth grade, I won the school’s short story contest. I wrote poetry in high school and my first years of college, one of which was published in our state’s college poetry anthology. These were tumultuous times in America with antiwar protests and political unrest. I switched to writing essays for local zines as part of that movement. Looking back, if I could do something differently, I would maintain fiction as artistic expression instead of meaning totally sucked into this movement. In graduate school, I focused on writing class assignments and the thesis. I didn’t return to fiction for many years, way too long.

Romelia: HOW LONG ON AVERAGE DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK?

Robert Eggleton: It takes me about six months to finish the first draft. Self-Editing can take another six until I’m ready to submit it to an experienced Editor. Based on reviews, ongoing editing for Rarity from the Hollow continued until May 2018 when a new edition was published. A couple more novels are in the works with Ivy being ready for independent editing.

Romelia: DO YOU BELIEVE IN WRITER’S BLOCK?

Robert Eggleton: No, I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think that writers get distracted with real-life issues, some of which involve survival.

Romelia: AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK SOMEONE SHOULD CALL THEMSELVES A WRITER?

Robert Eggleton: A person can legitimately call themselves a writer at the point of submission to others for their enjoyment or other anticipated benefit, including escapism. It is not just when a person gets published or paid for writing.

Romelia: WHAT DIFFERENCE DO YOU SEE BETWEEN A WRITER AND AN AUTHOR?

Robert Eggleton: In contrast, an author has made work available through publication to a wider audience, including self-publishing. Rarity from the Hollow was originally published by a traditional small press in Leeds, U.K. that went defunct except for a monthly magazine (Vada). The editor reverted all rights and assets back to me with a recommendation that I self-publish.

Romelia: HOW DO YOU PROCESS AND DEAL WITH NEGATIVE BOOK REVIEWS?

Robert Eggleton: I analyze all book reviews, especially negative reviews. They are helpful and appreciated. The only reviews that upset me would be if the reviewer obviously had not read the novel. Rarity from the Hollow has 129 reviews on Amazon (4.3 rating), some submitted by people very experienced in the field of fiction. There are also a few negative reviews that were a little hard to stomach. For example, one reviewer said that she didn’t like “war stories.” However, there is no war in the novel. The only thing shot in the story was a fake Barbie doll, an analogy to the effects of poverty on the self-esteem of children. This review was worthless and it was hard not to comment about it on Amazon.

Romelia: WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR WRITING PROCESS?

Robert Eggleton: I sometimes have difficulty with highly emotionally charged scenes – I’m an emotion kind of guy, including with touching moment in movies. One scene in Rarity from the Hollow (third chapter) had me squinting through the teardrops at the screen.

Romelia: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING OR WHEN DID YOU START?

Robert Eggleton: I’ve been writing since childhood. I was raised in an impoverished family that didn’t have enough money for toys or recreation. We didn’t have a TV until I was twelve, and no phone until I was sixteen. I began writing short stories to entertain myself and my family. My writing was reinforced by positive reactions from others in the community.

Romelia: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A WRITER WORKING ON THEIR FIRST BOOK?

Robert Eggleton: My advice to a writer working on the first book is to establish and expand your social media network before you finish the book. I didn’t and missed a great opportunity to build an audience anticipation.

Romelia: WHAT, TO YOU, ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF GOOD WRITING?

Robert Eggleton: In my opinion, there are several elements of good writing. Regardless of genre, the first is keeping your characters within role as they develop.

Romelia: WHAT COMES FIRST FOR YOU – THE PLOT OR THE CHARACTERS – AND WHY?

Robert Eggleton: Both plot and characters are essential to a good story. The first for me is the characters because the plot sometimes takes longer to develop with subplots leading toward it and it the readers doesn’t buy into the characters, they won’t stick around long enough to get the full plot.

Romelia: HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR PLOT AND CHARACTERS?

Robert Eggleton: The theme of Rarity from the Hollow is victimization to empowerment. The characters were based on real-life people that I’d met during forty years as a child advocate, some of whom obstructed the protagonist’s pursuit of empowerment while others facilitated it, just like in real-life. The plot developed naturally as I had already committed to the theme of saving the universe before I began writing the story. 

Romelia: WHEN DID YOU FIRST CALL YOURSELF A WRITER?

Robert Eggleton: I called myself a writer after my first poem was published even though there was a lapse of productivity.

Romelia: HOW DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AS AN AUTHOR?

Robert Eggleton: I have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Lacy-Dawn-Adventures-573354432693864. And, I have a Twitter account: https://twitter.com/roberteggleton1. I post review excerpts in Facebook book groups and on Twitter. I also have a Facebook home page that I post about music, politics, comics, and other newsworthy items. I’ve read other authors who do not post about anything but their books, concerned that they might alienate potential customers. I decided that free speech is more important that book sales and that, as a person, I am more than an author. I also get on kboards, mostly to read posts by authors who have much more expertise than I do in marketing books  https://www.kboards.com/index.php?board=60.0.

Romelia: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AND LEAST FAVORITE PART OF PUBLISHING?

Robert Eggleton: My favorite part in publishing is having final product that I can be proud of. Since I have such a limited income, my least favorite part is trying to tell others about my novel without spending money.

Romelia: WHAT WOULD YOUSAY TO AN AUTHOR WHO WANTED TO DESIGN THEIR OWN COVER?

Robert Eggleton: I have no skills in graphic design. Rarity from the Hollow has had more than one cover, contributions by the Editor of Dog Horn Publishing which originally published it and an author who has skills in graphics. Each cover has been an improvement in communicating that the novel is a children’s story for adults (not YA) and that it has a science fiction slant. I like the current cover the best, but had little to do with its creation except for comments.

Romelia: HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN AND WHICH IS YOUR FAVORITE?

Robert Eggleton: I have written three books but only Rarity from the Hollow, my debut,has been published. It is my favorite and that makes contemplating publication of the next, Ivy, more difficult. I am learning about marketing every day and as soon as I feel comfortable that I can do a better job in that field, I will release the next novel. 

Romelia: WHAT PART OF THE BOOK DID YOU HAVE THE HARDEST TIME WRITING?

Robert Eggleton: I had the hardest time writing the third scene of Rarity from the Hollow because it is so emotional – domestic violence, the only graphic scene in the novel.

Romelia: WHAT PART OF THE BOOK WAS THE MOST FUN TO WRITE?

Robert Eggleton: Although I struggled here and there with techniques, writing Rarity from the Hollow in its entirety was the most fun of any activity that I have participated in my like. I especially liked writing the satire and political parody in the story, wondering if readers would “get it” and laughing on the inside. I felt especially rewarded after reading the review that awarded the novel a Gold 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….” https://awesomeindies.net/bookstore/rarity-from-the-hollow-robert-eggleton/

Romelia: WHICH OF THE CHARACTERS DO YOU RELATE TO THE MOST AND WHY?

Robert Eggleton: I related most to Lacy Dawn – the eleven-year-old protagonist. One review described her as “..perching precariously between the psychosis of childhood and the multiple neuroses of adolescence,.infused with a yearning to escape the grim and brutal life of a rural Appalachian existence….” The Electric Review https://electricrev.net/2014/08/12/a-universe-on-the-edge/ Growing up, my father was a war-damaged Vet sufferring from World War II PTSDT. Intoxication and domestic violence were parts of my own childhood. That’s why I relate most to Lacy Dawn.

Romelia: IF YOU’RE PLANNING A SEQUEL. CAN YOU SHARE A TINY BIT ABOUT YOUR PLANS FOR IT?

Robert Eggleton: Ivy, on a serious note, asks the question: how far will a child go to save her parent from drug addiction? It’s about an outrageous invasion of Earth by shape-changing aliens and Lacy Dawn’s efforts to diminish that threat. Like Rarity from the Hollow, this story also includes comedy and satire to reduce the emotional charge of serious topics, and to enhance reader enjoyment.

Romelia: TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY ABOUT YOUR ADULT LIFE.

Robert Eggleton: The funniest thing about my adult life is that I work so hard to stay healthy but still smoke cigarettes. People who don’t know me well would never suspect. I have to quit!

Romelia: describe yourself in a few sentences. Tell us something we do not know about you and something you hate about the world.

Robert Eggleton: I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist who devoted my life to child welfare. I hate how little has changed to protect children in the world, and how politics ignores our most needful citizens. In political campaigns, I’ve never heard someone talk about how foster children and abused children are linked to many other ills in our society and other societies all around the world: poverty, crime, drug addiction…. I hate how they can’t see the forest for the trees.   

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