Lacy Dawn is a gifted ten-year-old human girl with a dysfunctional family, an android boyfriend and a difficult life. She lives in a place called the Hollow where she converses with the trees and with her best friend’s ghost. Lacy has witnessed many traumatic events in her young life; her father is a veteran of war with severe PTSD, her best friend was a victim of various types of abuse and her mother suffers from depression. She’s got one thing going for her though: she’s going to save the universe.
I must say that this book is unlike any other story I’ve ever read. It’s unique in so many ways! It’s the first time I’ve read an adult novel that was written from a child’s perspective. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even heard of another! We also get to see into the thoughts of other characters like Dwayne (her father), Jenny (her mother), DotCom (her android boyfriend) and even their dog, Brownie! It’s super neat.
There are a lot of touchy subjects that are brought up in this novel such as violence, substance abuse, sexual abuse, and self-harm but the use of satire and the interesting narrative help keep things less negative and more on the lighter side.
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.
I give this novel 5 out of 5 feathers!
1. What was the initial moment for you when you realized writing was what you wanted to do?
Thanks, Melanie, for providing an opportunity to tell your readers a little about myself and my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow. I grew up in an impoverished family. My father was a WWII Vet who suffered from PTSD and who self-medicated with alcohol. He couldn’t hold down a job. There was no money for recreation or toys for me or my three siblings. Perhaps as an attempt to escape a harsh reality, I began writing short stories as a child, sometimes using paper grocery bags before plastic became the norm as the medium. I would read them to my family, and then began sharing them with peers and neighbours, including clerks in stores and gas station attendants…. Feedback encouraged me to continue to write. In the eighth grade, I won my schools short story competition and that’s when I began to dream of becoming a rich and famous author.
2. I absolutely love that the author proceeds of your book are donated to help prevent child maltreatment. What inspired you to write a book that addresses social issues?
I blame my mother for my interest in social issues that affect the disenfranchised. It is part of the Appalachian culture. As a side note, for example, my wife’s mother used to feed hoboes riding on trains who would come up to her close-by house – a couple of eggs and a cup of coffee. My own mother was an advocate of racial justice, an antiwar activist before the term became popular, and would do anything that she could to help the more downtrodden. I learned that the gift of life is love and caring for others, even if one is poor. I was involved in the Civil Rights movement, the anti Vietnam War movement, and went into the field of children’s advocacy because that population is the least heard: homelessness, failures within the juvenile justice systems, institutionalization of great kids that destroyed their futures, and, of course, child maltreatment that affects so many.
Except for a few poems and short stories, my fiction writing took aside for most of my over forty year career. I wrote nonfiction in my field, including nationally published models and dozens of investigative report that were covered by the local news. In 2002, I accepted a job as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions. One day in 2006, in a session that I was facilitating, I met a skinny little girl, a victim of horrific abuse. Instead of just disclosing the horrors, she spoke of her hopes and dreams of the future – finding a loving family who would protect her. I was inspired, as were everybody else that she touched. I name her Lacy Dawn as the protagonist of Rarity from the Hollow.
3. Are the characters’ personalities in your book loosely based on people you know and/or relate to yourself in some way?
Yes, the characters in Rarity from the Hollow are based on real-life people that I’ve known over the years. Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, is a composite of hundreds of maltreated kids that I’ve been involved with during my career. Her best friend, Faith, is based on one of our former foster kids who was involved in teen prostitution before she came into our home. Sadly, after getting her act together for over a year, doing great in school…, she was tricked into getting into a truck with a stranger who murdered her. I just had to make that character more hopeful, so I turned her into a ghost. The Stoners in my story, although each is unique in real-life, are like a million others in that particular respect. Lacy Dawn’s mother and father are based loosely upon my own parents.
4. What is your writing process like? Do you plan it all out before you write or do you let the story take over and see where it goes?
I began with a general outline that I adjusted with progress. Each scene was planned. Looking back, I would make further modifications, of course. For example, the complicated “Rules of the Game” chapter in the story was intended to mimic the complicated tax laws of the U.S. that require an accountant to understand, the role that the android played at that point. I’m not sure that most readers “got it” because, like the actual tax laws, it was a boring. I now wish that I had made that point more succinctly, but such is life.
5. What book would you highly recommend to your readers?
Charles Dickens believed that a novel must do much more than merely entertain. Books have changed so much in a brief period of time – the last couple of decades. As perpetuated by Goodreads, wonderful book bloggers who most often feel overwhelmed by the number of review requests and feel pressured to produce quickly, the concept of “like” has become dominant in book reviewing. I recommend a book that respect and admiration are more important – Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guinn. Further, if the reader doesn’t “get it” the first time, I recommend a second or third read until it sinks in. This novel is a masterpiece that will contribute to literature for many generations, much more significant than a quick entertainment-type-read within any genre. I’m not saying that I enjoyed this book more than any other. But, I believe that once a reader fully consumes this novel it will increase the enjoyment of all other fine novels.
Thank you so much for your wonderful answers and really interesting recommendation! I quickly added Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guinn to my TBR list!