Child Abuse & Novels | An Interview

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Hello everyone! Today I have a really exciting post for you (and me). I was contacted awhile ago by Robert Eggleton, an acclaimed child psychotherapist and now novelist, to review his debut novel. Unfortunately, I had to decline as I felt like I might not be able to cope with some of the topics in the book. However, his mission with this book was so important that I asked him if he might instead like to do an interview with me, to which he readily agreed. Please bear in mind that I have no opinions myself on this book and I have not edited Robert’s responses in any way. The answers found in this post do not reflect anyone’s views but the interviewee and I am in no way associated with them. However, all images have been chosen by me as is the formatting. Basically: don’t hate.


If you had to explain who you are to someone who knew nothing about you in one sentence, what would you say?

roberteggleton……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist with over forty years experience as a children’s advocate who was inspired to write fiction that sensitizes readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment through a comical and satiric science fiction adventure.

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What/who is your hero?

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I’ve been fortunate in my life to have met several wonderful people who lent me a helping hand beginning in childhood – real-life heroes. I may not have survived had it not been for their kindness, such as Captain Miller who pulled me off the stairs of my burning house, a fire that killed my father. Captain Miller took me home with him where I lived for a couple of months until my family could reunite.

Mr. Kelly, the Manager of Big Star supermarket hired me to clean an alley behind the store when I was ten. He paid me in dented and unlabeled can goods and crushed boxes containing cereal, macaroni…. Without him, at a time before food stamps, my family might have starved. He is a hero of mine.

But, more than anyone else, and there are many others, my biggest hero is my mother. Through it all, she kept her family together. I remember her going to work as a waitress in pain because of her rotting teeth and lack of access to medical care, but able to force a smile. She was a powerful woman, with no racial prejudice at a time when racism was popular, willing to share with others what little that she had, making cups of coffee for hoboes who rode the trains….

Of course, there are lots of famous people who I could name as heroes, but without so many heroes who did not achieve much recognition for their roles in my life, I prefer to remember the best of all heroes, ones that I’ve personally met.


What sparked your interest in protecting children?

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Again, my mother was a role model, not just for me, but for others who met her in the community. She exemplified empathy. As a young man, I became involved in the Civil Right movement, then the Anti War movement with my mother’s encouragement to listen to my heart. I grew up in low income neighborhoods with lots of children around. Since poverty has been found to be a correlate of child maltreatment, of course, I witness more than I care to remember. Playing into the scenario was a religious value held by many of the day: spare the rod and spoil the child. Children had virtually no rights, at home, in school where corporeal punishment was an everyday occurrence, in court – no place.

I’ve worked since early childhood. My first job that took out taxes and Social Security was at age twelve, cleaning and stocking shelves for minimum wage ($1.00). That’s how I accumulated over fifty-two years of paying into Social Security. Anyway, between real- life issues and being tired from work, I was a poor public school student.

After I finally graduated form high school (I had dropped out for a little while), I enrolled in college, mostly to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam. Given my academic limitations, what to major in was a big question for me. I selected social work as I’d already had some personal experiences within the field. I had been a volunteer draft counselor for kids trying to decide whether to be drafted or other options; I had also been a volunteer drug counselor at a walk-in clinic in the basement of a church – most of the walk-ins were kids having bad trips on acid.

In 1974, I went to work for the WV Department of Mental Health as a Youth Substance Abuse Counselor. It had a tuition program for employees, so I went to graduate school part-time for three years before finishing up as a full-time student. I did great (4.0 g.p.a.). Anyway, the substance abuse program where I worked was a small mental hospital, secure with perimeter fencing, dorms…. While not necessarily a total eye-opener for me, virtually every kid committed to that program had been abused by a parent or caregiver at some point in their backgrounds.

After graduate school, I helped create a Runaway Shelter for kids. Frankly, this program could have been called a Throw-Away program because many of the kids who sought service alleged some form of maltreatment, and as I worked to reunite these families, many parents just didn’t seem to care about their children. I also witness the systems in place supposed designed to help children, instead send them off to giant institutions with inhuman conditions, pass from one foster home to the next with the child receiving no sense of permanency….

I then took a job creating emergency shelters for children across West Virginia, and worked from 1982 to 1998 for the West Virginia Supreme Court investigating children’s programs and services, including a few outside of West Virginia because nobody in our state wanted them. I have tons of accomplishments, including national recognition for my work for over forty years, author many works, most of which now archived by our state’s Division of Culture and History. Yes, I blame my interest in child welfare all on my mother, a field that pays very little money and that has to be heart-felt.


How did you choose to become a psychotherapist?

In college, I excelled in psychology. In graduate school, I concentrated on Clinical and worked for college credit with programs helping them to design effective models of psychotherapy while I was under supervision, followed by thousands of Continuing Education credits and obtaining a license to practice that required recertification every two years. In 2002, I went to work as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center where outcomes was a big measure of my effectiveness. But, to your readers, the role is not particularly glamorous and sure not like the private practice psychotherapists that sometimes appear on television shows. Most of my career, I’ve worked for struggling community-based agencies putting in long and hard hours for low pay, and often bringing my work home with me to process the children’s pain in private.


Many of the readers of my blog, I would imagine, are quite young (late teens-mid twenties). What is one piece of advice you would give to young people?

The decisions that you make today will affect the quality of your life much more so than any other factor.


What is one question you have always wanted to be asked and why?

My personal life has been pretty much an open book. I do wish that more people would ask about Rarity from the Hollow: Is the character Mr. Prump based on Donald Trump? The answer would be a qualified: Yes. My novel was the first, perhaps the only, science fiction adventure to specifically predict the rise of Donald Trump to political power — parody with NO political advocacy one side or any other. Readers find out how Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, convinced Mr. Rump (Bernie Sanders) to help talk Mr. Prump (Donald Trump) into saving the universe. The allegory includes pressing issues that are being debated today, including illegal immigration and the refuge crisis, an issue that several European commentators have compared to cockroach infestation; extreme capitalism / consumerism vs. domestic spending for social supports; sexual harassment…. Mr. Prump in my story was a projection of Donald Trump based on the TV show, The Apprentice. The counterpart, Mr. Rump, was based on my understanding of positions held by Bernie Sanders as I wrote the story. Part of the negotiations in the story occur in the only high rise on planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop), a giant shopping mall and the center of economic governance, now more easily identifiable as Trump Tower.

I believe that if more readers recognized the political allegory that it would increase their enjoyment of the novel without raising any huge political issues. It is parody and farce that would click with both Trump supporters and detractors, and not heavy at all.


If you had to summarise your book in three words, what would they be?

Tragedy, Comedy, Satire.


If there were one thing you would like people to know that you have learned throughout your career of the writing of this book, what would it be?

Fortunately, I was naïve when I wrote Rarity from the Hollow, my debut novel. The biggest thing that I’ve learned since is that writing is the easy part. I got lucky. A traditional small press in the U.K. took an interest and published it without me incurring any expenses for anything. But, small presses have almost no advertising budgets, the ones that have survived in this highly competitive marketplace. Big publishers, and there are actually only five that just change the name of the imprints, that’s why so many novels seem the same, have big budgets and may invest $20,000 on marketing a single book. With another novel in waiting, Ivy, I’ve probably spent ten times as much time and effort on self-promotion than on creative writing. As a novice, this reality has shocked me, but to give any novel a chance, self-promotion is essential. And, since I have no money to market, what would be the point of releasing another novel until Rarity from the Hollow receives greater recognition. I remain determined and appreciate your help, Keira.


When did you decide to write this book?

I’ve mentioned that I went to work as a children’s psychotherapist in 2002. Part of my job was to facility group therapy sessions. Most of the children in the program had experienced maltreatment, some had been sexually abuse. In 2006, around the table used for group therapeutic exercises, sat a little girl with stringy brown hair. Instead of just disclosing the horror of her abuse by one of the meanest daddies on Earth, she spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future – finding a loving family to protect her, forever and ever. She was inspirational to me and everyone who interacted with her. I named her Lacy Dawn as she became the role model for the protagonist in Rarity from the Hollow. That’s when I returned to writing fiction, a life-long interest that had been neglected for decades.


Do you think your previous occupations helped you in writing your book? How?

Yes, most of the characters in Rarity from the Hollow were based on real people that I’ve met over the years. I accentuated traits and attributes, of course, especially the comedic. Plus, since the mission of the project is to sensitize readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment through a satiric and comedic science fiction adventure, when I got tired from writing after a long day’s work, all that I had to do was to think of the needful kids and I would get an energy boost.


Proceeds from your book get donated to a child abuse prevention program. How did you make this decision?

Half of author proceeds are donated to the prevention of child maltreatment. I have spent some of the other 50% on posters, postage for shipping paperbacks, ink cartridges…. I have not profited a penny from having created this project, but I currently live on Social Security and need some revenue to sustain the project. I’m hopeful that sales continue to increase.

Rarity from the Hollow was originally conceived as a means to raise money for a child welfare program where I used to work in the early 1980s. There’s very nice audio presentation which you can listen to here. After you hear it and check the other info on the site, I’m confident that you will be moved. Helping abused kids is in by blood, my soul. It wasn’t so much a decision as it is continuing to fulfill a life-long commitment to the best of my ability.


If people take one thing away from reading your book, what would you hope it would be?

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I hope that people who read Rarity from the Hollow take away that literary content of a book that includes tragedy, doesn’t have to be depressing to read – that such a story can be a lot of fun and full of entertainment.

This question reminds me of the most recent book review of my novel: “…I really enjoyed reading Rarity from the Hollow. It’s so different and so well-written. I also love that it creates awareness in readers about mental health and different types of abuse and that it’s told in a way that isn’t too heavy. There wasn’t a single dull moment and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for something out of the ordinary.” (Source)


Who would you recommend your book to and who would you caution against it (trigger warnings etc.)?

1 Rarity Front Cover WEB (2)Rarity from the Hollow is a children’s story for adults. But, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. It is for adults because of the social commentary and satire, not because of sexual content or violence in the story.

Books have changed since I was a teen. As I was writing my novel, I imagined an army of teens uniting against child maltreatment after having read it. But, my story doesn’t fit the young adult market as I understand it – it is literary. Fast action doesn’t propel the plot. In my day, millions of teens were involved in the important social issues of the times, but it feels a little different now. Then, rock songs fueled and motivated social action. Of course, we all had fun, fun, fun too, but I think that I was reaching to far into my own hopes and dreams with respect to Rarity from the Hollow attracting a big teen audience. Yes, when Harry Potter gave Dobby the sock, it was an antiracism statement, but I bet that a lot of readers missed the metaphor.

Here’s a link to a short article that I wrote that is relevant to this question of whether or not young adults would appreciate my novel. If a teen enjoys fast action-packed mainstream types novel, I recommend that if they check out Rarity from the Hollow that they take their time reading it.

“The problem with loving a specific genre of books is that sooner or later you will find that you’ve read it all. For months at a time it will seem that every other book you pick up is just another dystopian novel set upon a craft hurtling through space or just another super-human story with a protagonist subjected to a lifetime of intrusive and unnecessary tests. It is very rare indeed that a book stops you in your tracks and tells a story that is completely unique and ever so slightly weird… Rarity from the Hollow is very, very good…I’d recommend Rarity from the Hollow to anybody who likes a side helping of the lunatic with their science fiction and fantasy.” (Source)

Although my novel received glowing reviews from a couple of major romance novel book review organizations, other book reviewers of romance novels have been less appreciative. There is a romance element in my story, but it is not a mainstream romance novel and if readers enjoy those the most, Rarity from the Hollow will not meet this expectation.

There are one-hundred book reviews on Amazon, and more have been promised by independent book review bloggers. Thirty-three book bloggers who reviewed my novel gave it five stars, the best. Forty-seven more book bloggers gave it four stars. But there are also a few one and two star reviews. I’m not sure if a common thread can be found among people who didn’t appreciate my story, except that several reviewers have called Rarity from the Hollow “unique” or a synonym. If you are looking for a book that is a little different, and have time to enjoy a story, I consider you to be within a target audience for the novel.

As to trigger warnings, there are two. Profanity: Although there are no sex scenes in the novel, and Lacy Dawn models perhaps an old-fashioned virtue by stating that she refuses to have sex for the first time until after she is married, the novel does contain rough-edged sexual innuendos presented as puns in colloquial Appalachian voice. If a reader who is easily offended reads my novel it could trigger a dislike for the story. IMO, this happened with a couple of reviewers who posted on Amazon, thereby bringing down the overall average. They became offended and never finished the story. If you are easily offended, Rarity from the Hollow may not be the novel that you are looking for.

“…If it does not make you think, you are not really reading it….” (Source)

Secondly and more significantly, I have been concerned that the early tragedy in my story could trigger symptoms of a reader with PTSD related to sexual abuse or domestic violence. So far, ten book bloggers have privately disclosed to me that they were survivors of childhood maltreatment and had no problem reading Rarity from the Hollow. A couple of these book reviewers mentioned their backgrounds in their reviews. Here’s an excerpt of one that personally moved me.

“…I enjoyed the book so much that a few months after reading it I just picked it up again…reminded me of stuff in the past but somehow it also made me feel less alone. It made me realize that there are so many children in this world getting abused, going through the stuff I have been through…. The fact that there’s sci-fi/fantasy in it (such as genderless alien DotCom) kinda makes the book easier to read, less heavy on some moments… I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s 18+ but do keep in mind it’s a very heavy book to read yet so worth it.” (Source)

Nevertheless, I maintain that victims of child maltreatment or domestic violence, who have not yet achieved empowerment – if they decide to read my novel, I recommend read the beginning chapters be read with someone else around. The early tragedy feeds and amplifies subsequent comedy and satire, so I also recommend that a person continue to read beyond the tragedy. One of the characters is a victim of sexual abuse, but, of course there are no scenes and only a couple of references but they could be heavy for some readers. This character, Faith, plays an annoying and comical ghost most of the story. I suspect that this character also affected a couple of the book reviewers in that after reading the first part of the story, they made presumptions about the rest of it that were not within the content of my story. So, if just the idea of a character having been sexually abused gets to you, my novel may not be your cup of tea.

aiaraisedgoldTHIS (2) (2)Otherwise, when awarding a Gold Medal, the book reviewer for Awesome Indies found: “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.” (Source)


Okay people, a brief intermission to tell you what this book is actually about!

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.

And seeing as I can’t tell you anything good about it because I haven’t read it, here is some praise…

“The most enjoyable science fiction novel I have read in years.”

Temple Emmet Williams, Author, former editor for Reader’s Digest

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“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

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“…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)

***

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“…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)

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“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

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“…Good satire is hard to find and science fiction satire is even harder to find.” — The Baryon Review

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“…Brilliant satires such as this are genius works of literature in the same class as Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm.’ I can picture American Lit professors sometime in the distant future placing this masterpiece on their reading list.” — Marcha’s Two-Cents Worth

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“…I know this all sounds pretty whack, and it is, but it’s also quite moving. Lacy Dawn and her supporting cast – even Brownie, the dog – are some of the most engaging characters I’ve run across in a novel in some time….” — Danehy-Oakes, Critic whose book reviews often appear in the New York Review of Science Fiction

***

“… The author gives us much pause for thought as we read this uniquely crafted story about some real life situations handled in very unorthodox ways filled with humor, sarcasm, heartfelt situations and fun.” — Fran Lewis: Just Reviews/MJ Magazine

 ***


Finally, where can people buy your book?

Rarity from the Hollow can be purchased at any online bookstore and, not counting the small bookstore in my home town that carries the paperback, it could be ordered from any Books-A-Million.

The most popular sites are:

Amazon US (Physical Copy)

Amazon US (Ebook)

Barnes and Noble

Dog Horn Publishing

 

For a limited time, the eBook version of Rarity form the Hollow is on sale for $2.99 and the paperback is on sale for $16.99, both at Amazon. You can save six cents on the paperback at Book Depository if you like to shop there.  And, of course, it is available at Amazon U.K. for £1.99, as well as any other Amazon.

Half of author proceeds are donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia for the prevention of child maltreatment.

Thanks, Keira, for inviting me to introduce myself and my debut novel to your readers.


And that’s it! What do you think? Feel free to discuss (or silently read). Happy reading, Keira x.

 

 

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