Gerard Siggins, author of the Rugby Spirit series and this year’s World Book Day book Rugby Roar, chats about the coming to the end of a series that began as a one book adventure and turned it to something bigger and better!
BOOK SIX of my ‘Rugby Spirit’ series is just out, and it may just be the last of the set. I never planned it as a series – I suppose most first-time novelists don’t have the sort of confidence that your publishers will want to keep publishing them and your readers will keep reading them.
No, Rugby Spirit was a once-off, a combination of a bedtime story my son kept pestering to write down, and a historical itch that needed scratching. I was chuffed that O’Brien Press said they would like to issue it, and even more delighted that they told me immediately to go off and write a sequel.
The first book concerned a boy coming to a new sport and finding advice and fellowship in the ghost of a long-dead rugby player. That character, Brian Hanrahan, was the only person ever to die playing sport in Lansdowne Road. He helps Eoin to get better at rugby, but also helped him to solve a mystery and understand more about the past.
As I sat down to plan Book 2, I tossed around ideas such as keeping it just to Eoin and Brian again, or taking out the supernatural element. But I realised that I could take it on a bit by keeping Eoin and Brian and adding a new ghost to the story. Rugby Warrior brought in Dave Gallaher, an Irish-born player who was the first captain of New Zealand’s All Blacks and who died in World War One.
With a cover line that explained where it was coming from (‘Back in School, Back in Sport, Back in Time’) the book went down well and I had a bona-fide series up and running and ideas for at least two more sequels.
Lots of interesting people played rugby, and that allowed me to build plots around their corner of history while also seeing Eoin make progress in the sport with Brian. The next three came quickly:
- Rugby Rebel (‘Discovering History, Uncovering Mystery’) featured Kevin Barry, who scored a try for Belvedere College at Lansdowne Road and was executed in the War of Independence.
- Rugby Flyer (‘Haunting History, Thrilling Tries’) brought in Alex Obolensky, a Russian prince who fled that country during the October Revolution, learned rugby in England and scored two famous tries for his new home, against New Zealand before dying in the Second World War.
- Rugby Runner (‘Ancient Roots, Modern Boots’) goes back to very birth of the sport and the man at the middle of its creation myth, William Webb Ellis.
Eoin was also working his way through school, all the time growing away from the 9-14 cohort that makes up most of my readers. I had long planned to stop the series at the Junior Cup and Junior Cert, which arrives when boys are around 15-16.
With that end-point in my head, and the first three books each covering a full school year, I was suddenly one year before the Junior Cert and still full of ideas of what I wanted for the series. I managed to stretch Eoin’s year into three books, and even a bonus story beyond that!
For this month sees the publication of Rugby Heroes, the series finale, followed one week later by a special add-on written for World Book Day called Rugby Roar. That’s definitely the shortest retirement in the history of fiction!
It was terribly hard to end the series, and to let go of a cast of characters who had been living in my head for seven years and I had loved working with. But I have other things I want to write about and so, after six and a half books, it’s the end of Eoin’s rugby career.
He’s not gone though, and he’s still up there in my head, enjoying the peace while I torment other new characters. And readers of Rugby Heroes, look carefully – and you might get a clue as to where Eoin will turn up next…
Gerard Siggins, February 2018
The Rugby Spirit series by Gerard Siggins is available here and in all good bookshops! Keep an eye out for Rugby Roar by Gerard Siggins in Bookshops this World Book Day!