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Rarity from the Hollow by Robert Eggleton is an adult literary science fiction novel. We were not only immediately drawn to the concept, but also interested in proactively promoting the initiative since all author proceeds go to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. The author says “It reads like YA because of its use of adolescent voice, but it is not intended for younger youth, or anybody of any age that is not open-minded about social issues. In the 1970s, Ursula K. Le Guinn coined the term, “social science fiction” and this novel may fit better within that standard subgenre than any other.”
How and Why Rarity From The Hollow helps to prevent child abuse? We have with us Robert Eggleton today to talk to us more about this project.
by Robert Eggleton
I’ve worked in the field of child advocacy for over forty years. A few months ago, I retired from my job as a children’s psychotherapist for an intensive mental health, day treatment program. Many of the kids in the program had been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions.
One day in 2006 during a group therapy session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises, and a little girl with stringy, brown hair sat a few feet away. Instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of the meanest daddy on Earth, she also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family who would protect her.
This girl was inspiring. She got me thinking again about my own hopes and dreams of writing fiction, an aspiration that I’d held in since I was twelve years old. My protagonist was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the universe: Lacy Dawn. I began to write fiction in the evenings and sometimes went to work the next day without enough sleep. Every time that I would feel discouraged, when I felt like giving up, I would imagine Lacy Dawn speaking honestly about the barriers that she faced in pursuit of her dream of finding a permanent and loving home.
I got to the point where I needed more to sustain my drive. My wife and I talked it over. That’s when the idea of donating proceeds to the prevention of child abuse became a commitment that has sustained my discouragement to this day. Three short Lacy Dawn Adventures were subsequently published in magazines. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel.
At least half of author proceeds have been donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, a nonprofit child welfare agency where I used to work in the early ‘80s. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 families and children each year in an impoverished state in the U.S. with inadequate funding to deliver effective social services. childhswv.org.
During my career, many emotionally charged situations have tugged my heart strings so hard that child welfare became more than my job, more than a cause. It became a calling. Rarity from the Hollow fictionalized some of my true-life experiences and includes elements of poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, substance abuse and mental health problems. I wrote what I know best. My characters are more real than not, even though the backdrop of the story is science fiction.
I modeled the flow of the story after a mental health treatment episode involving a traumatized child: harsh and difficult to read scenes in the beginning of the story are similar to how, in treatment, therapeutic relationships must first be established before very difficult disclosures are made; cathartic and more relaxed scenes in middle chapters as detailed disclosures are less painful; and, increasingly satiric and comical toward the end through an understanding that it is “silly” to live in the past, that demons, no matter how scary, can be evicted, and that nothing controls our lives more so than the decisions that we make ourselves.
I know that it sounds weird, but I imagined victims benefiting from having read a science fiction story. Maybe I was trying to rationalize a balance between these two competing interests – writing fiction and my interests in child welfare. Even though I’d paid into the U.S. Social Security fund for over fifty-two years, I felt a little guilty about retiring from work. The decision to donate author proceeds to child abuse prevention helped resolve some of my guilty feelings.
In hindsight, maybe my idea that victims of childhood mistreatment could benefit from reading Rarity from the Hollow wasn’t so off-base after all. Four book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were victims of childhood maltreatment, like me, and that they had benefited having read the story. Three of them wrote glowing book reviews of the novel, one of whom publicly disclosed that she had been a rape victim as part of her review, and the fourth reviewer promoted the novel on her blog and on a radio show broadcast from the U.K. This book reviewer wants to interview Lacy Dawn, the protagonist.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a parent could read a book and actually become a better parent? In my experience, we typically parent the way that we were parented, even, sometimes, when we strive to do better. Unfortunately, there is a correlation between experiencing abuse in childhood and inflicting abuse as a parent.
Nevertheless, Rarity from the Hollow is a tribute to the concept of victimization to empowerment. Many abused kids demonstrate resilience that, for me, is amazing. Especially when abuse is related to the mental illness or substance abuse of or by the parent, guilt, in my opinion, rather than functioning as a motivator to address the problem can actually be detrimental. Parents who read my story may achieve insight that their children, more than anything in the world, want to love them, and that, while the damage done may not be forgotten or forgiven, that their children are strong and can not only survive, but can become empowered.
Also, especially with increasing awareness of PTSD, such as that experienced by Lacy Dawn’s father in the story, “Rarity from the Hollow” provides hope to spouses that the condition is treatable. By exemplifying the impact of treatment, this story may encourage readers with PTSD, such as Vets returning from the war in the Middle East, to seek treatment. I certainly hope so. In my experience, PTSD and anger management concerns are related, and can potentially result in sudden anger at anything, including a defenseless child.
If you or anyone you know has experienced childhood violence and your emotions are easily triggered, please exercise caution before deciding whether or not to read Rarity from the Hollow. While there is only one violent scene, the third, it is intense and there are mature references in the story. Subsequent chapters become increasingly satiric and comical and the novel won a Gold Medal from Awesome Indies as a “…hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” – a science fiction comedy. My intent was for the early tragedy to amplify the comedy that follows, so I do also recommend that readers who have been victimized to stick with the story beyond the early chapter in order to witness the empowerment.
The intent of Rarity from the Hollow was to take its readers who have also been affected by past horrors from their tragedy into empowerment. The flow of the story is modeled after a mental health treatment episode: horror that is difficult to face and to disclose about in beginning chapters leading toward empowerment with subsequent disclosures as one acknowledges that the past is the past, and that nothing controls or lives more than the decisions that we make in the present. As in real life, however, I did not insert an artificial resolution of the complex issues presented in the story. Sometimes, we just have to move on.
Rarity from the Hollow recently won a second Gold Medal and an excerpt from that review is apt to the prevention of child abuse:
“…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity From the Hollow 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….”
The intent of this novel is to sensitize people to the issue of maltreated children the way that Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim worked his way into the hearts of millions of fans.
More recently, a book reviewer from Bulgaria named Rarity from the Hollow as one of the five best reads of 2015. One finding about which I am especially proud, however, was:
“…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….”
Rarity from the Hollow has now appeared on over eighty blogs or magazines worldwide, in nineteen different countries including all over the U.S. and the U.K., Finland, Mexico, Bulgaria, Belgium, South Africa, Croatia, Uruguay, India, Taiwan, Australia, Nigeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Canada, Vietnam, Portugal, and Sweden. The project has grown into a world-wide movement to sensitize people about child maltreatment through a satiric and comical science fiction adventure.
“…It is funny and irreverent but beneath the hallucinatory story of visits to shopping planets and interstellar shopping games, there is a profound critique of social problems, substance abuse, child sexual abuse and child murder that is quite eye opening… 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.” Addicted to Media
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.
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