Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I have served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. I’m best known for investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where I 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, I’m a recently retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where I specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is mys 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 he met when delivering group therapy services. The overall theme of my stories remains victimization to empowerment.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist. My protagonist is named Lacy Dawn and she based on a real person. One day in 2006, during an adolescent group psychotherapy session that I was facilitating, a traumatized a little girl sat a few feet away from me, around the table used to complete therapeutic worksheets. When it was her turn to talk, she didn’t stop with mere disclosure of detail about her trauma – acceptance of it was just a stepping stone. She spoke of hope and dreams, a future involving a loving family that would respect her physically and spiritually. Her presentation inspired other victims. It inspired me to pursue my life long dream to write fiction. During that therapy session, my protagonist was born. This little girl was my role model of victimization to empowerment. I haven’t stopped writing about her since. Again, her name is Lacy Dawn, and I recommend that you not mess with her or it’s hard to tell what you’ll get.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Except for chain smoking cigarettes, a dreadful addiction, with lighting another while one is still burning in the ashtray, I don’t think that I have any unusual writing habits.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I’ve always had eclectic tastes in fiction. Mark Twain’s characters inspired me as a child to work hard to support my family. Without that inspiration, I have little doubt that I would have ended up on the “wrong side of the tracks.” Episodes of male incarcerations were an accepted way of life in my family, especially on my mother’s side although my father did his time in prison too. Tom Sawyer gave me an alternative to believe in beyond what seemed like an in and out of jail existence. I probably should have paid a little closer attention, however, because I served some time behind bars too, but it was during the hippie counterculture days so it was cool.
With respect to writing, I’m not sure that you have enough bandwidth for me to make a complete list of inspirations, so here’s a few. Of course, Heinlein’s determination as an aspiring author after having been rejected so many times inspired my own persistence. Also, the way he progressively treated racial and gender issues in his fiction at a time when science fiction was regarded a pulp for kids inspired me to consider incorporating social commentary into my fiction.
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 continue to have fun experimenting with my writing style outside of commonly accepted structures and formats.
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, which was comforting. Watership Down by R. Adams was such a sweet adventure that some of this element just is a necessary ingredient of even the scariest or saddest story. I want my writing to be as hopeful regardless of barriers. What the point in bumming people out?
The versatility in cross-genre and the use of humour by Bradbury – I have enjoyed everything that he’s written. It taught me that people finish what they read because they are experiencing enjoyment. Recreational reading is not like a homework assignment.
Dean Koontz has been masterful and can give me enjoyable nightmares. I’m one of those people who learned how to enjoy having the crap scared out of me.
Nora Roberts knows how to get me in a romantic mood. Yes, older guys can still at least remember romance and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Males do read romance novels.
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. It’s a place that I really like to visit, but would not necessarily want to live there full-time.
Stephen King’s use of everyday horror convinced me that alarming scenes can be created by using almost anything as a prop. At home, we have a game. We name common household objects that could be converted into a dangerously exciting killing machine – the more gross the better. We are inspired!
What are you working on now?
Frankly, a lot of my time has been spent looking for free promotional opportunities for Rarity from the Hollow. I can’t afford paid promotions. That’s why I didn’t buy anything from this site.
Yesterday, I got a rejection email from a magazine about a short story that I had submitted. Sometimes, I wonder if editors actually have the time to read all of the submissions that they get. I was disappointed, but my wife said something and I thought about all of the rejections that Heinlein received before he got his foot in the door of publications. So, I’ll be working on finding a different home for this story.
I am looking for a home for a poem that I have written. (It’s not SF). But, it’s difficult because all of the possibilities today seem to require a reading of submission fee. That seems very weird to me. I’ve never paid to enter a contest or for a reading fee. I just feels weird so…. But, that means it takes a lot more time to look for free alternatives.
A satirical essay that I wrote has been submitted and is awaiting the return of the magazine’s owner from his summer hiatus before it will be considered. I have worked some more on the next novel, Ivy, but I’m holding off on submitting it to the editor because if I can’t make Rarity from the Hollow a success, there’s no reason to think that the next novel will be either. Good writing is only a part of what makes a novel successful, sometimes I think that it is not even the most significant aspect of whether a work is successful or not.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’m hopeful that the Awesomegang will be the best method of promoting Rarity from the Hollow. It takes a lot of time to submit to reviewers, especially if one doesn’t have the money to buy promotional services. When I have reached a conclusion about what has worked the best for the promotion of writing, I’ll update my answer to this question.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
My best advice would be impossible to deliver to new authors. It would be to start when you are young, always use an independent and skilled editor, don’t release anything before it has matured, and persevere while keeping your day job. The reason that this advice is impossible to deliver is because the people most likely to need it, the suppressed / repressed creative writer, is not likely to be on this site. She is busy and exhausted from having worked all day, and relaxing. She won’t start writing until later, and then will look back with realization and wishes that she should have, somehow, started when younger because it can take years to build a platform to market yourself to readers.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Don’t get in such a hurry to submit that you do so before a couple of people at least have proofread your work. I have not listened to this great advice to my regret. Most things that I’ve sent out, I later find simple and basic typos. One tends to read what one thinks was written, and not what is actually on the page.
What are you reading now?
I asked for recommendations from a Google group that I belong to, and I’m waiting for a couple of days. I’m kind of picky because I get invested, and like falling in love only to become heart-broken, I try to be cautions. I’m between reads right now, but looking hard at all the advertisements, a ton, that I receive by email. I am burned out on all of the most popular authors, so while I may glance over some of their titles, and I just did with Stephen King’s new release, Finders Keepers. It was good and everything, but it’s still the same Stephen King as I’ve read so many times before. If I don’t come up with a choice soon, I’m going into my basement to find something to reread. I was thinking either Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins, or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams — it’s been a couple or more decades since I’ve seen them on my shelves and each one is a masterpiece.
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’ve been self-promoting Rarity from the Hollow for almost three months. I’m going to give it a couple or so months, reassess, and plan from their. Part of what’s next for me depends on whether I conclude that I have to get a part-time job to pay my bills. Social Security — well, nobody should expect it alone to support you after retirement. So, as to writing, I will write until the day I can no longer type, but whether anybody has an opportunity to read what I write is a very different what’s next type of question.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Since I’ve had advance warning of this scenario, all four books would be about how to survive on a desert island, such as how to convert sea water into drinking water, how to catch fish without gear — that type of stuff.