JIM McComish has always been interested in cultural heritage and his debut novel The Reluctant Rapparee aims to transport readers into 16th – 17th Century Ireland.
He took a break from writing his second book to answer a few questions…
Where did the idea for The Reluctant Rapparee come from and how did this idea develop over time?
I’ve been fascinated by the subject of rapparees, which to cut a long story short are a sort of 16th/17th century irregular Irish guerilla fighter, since reading about Naoise O’Haughan the legendary Cave Hill highwayman almost 20 years ago. I built up a small library on the subject, and also had the benefit of a great deal of original source material from writing my dissertation for a Masters in Irish Cultural Heritages back in 2009. Rapparees such as Redmond O’Hanlon, Naoise O’Haughan and Shane Crossagh, who plays a small role in the novel, were once highly celebrated in folklore but we don’t hear so much about them these days. I felt that there was a gap in the market for a good novel about rapparees, as there had been very little fiction written on the subject in recent times.
Do you think books you read inspired your work?
I had previously purchased John Heron Lepper’s a Tory in Arms and William Carleton’s Redmond O’Hanlon. These were without a doubt my main influences. Sir Walter Scott’s Heart of Midlothian is a wonderful piece of work, Richard Doddridge Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, Dumas’ Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo. More recent influences would be the likes of Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series, Koji Suzuki’s Ringu, and Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels.
Tell me about your typical writing day.
When I was writing the novel I aimed for 1000 words a night. If I missed a night I tried to make it up the next night. It’s not easy when you’ve got a full time job, plus looking after a small child, shopping and cleaning. But it’s amazing what you can achieve if you eliminate television and alcohol from your life.
Were there moments when you contemplated giving up the idea for the novel? If so, how did you get through that?
No, I never contemplated giving up once I’d started. I quickly wrote out a brief skeleton and knew I had to write on average 1000 words a night to get it done within my 3 month target. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in once I started, thinking up my own funny scenarios and laughing at my own jokes.
What motivates you as an author?
Simply the urge to create. My mind tends to wander a lot and having a project like this helps me to focus.
Quite satisfying to know that I’d created something worthwhile.
Are you interested in how books can be adapted into film? If so, how do you imagine your book would translate onto the screen?
It’s been suggested to me that it could be adapted for the stage, you never know. I would be immensely proud if that were to happen. If it were to be made into a movie I would like it to maintain its sense of realism; my characters are not the typical romantic hero you’d expect in a Mills and Boon novel, these are desperate men living rough, dirty, malnourished with teeth missing, its only really their sense of camaraderie that keeps them going.
What are your hopes for the future in terms of writing?
I’ve already started my second novel, which will be unconnected to the Reluctant Rapparee. This one will be set in the 1870s in the Belfast docks, and will probably be a murder mystery, although it could end up taking on a life of its own and being something completely different.
What’re your opinions on the publishing industry?
I can’t speak on the matter with any great authority but hopefully there’s room for us all. It’s better to see people reading something than not reading at all. At the end of the day, it’s none of my business what someone wants to read, just as its none of my business if someone wants to listen to One Direction. By publishing the book I’m offering people another option, whether they take it or not is up to them.
Jim’s book is available to buy on Amazon here.
For more information visit Jim’s Facebook page.