Having been the host of local radio show Across The Line for almost two decades, and one of the most in-demand DJ in Belfast, David O’Reilly, aka Rigsy, is best known for his association with music.
But the Co. Down man is the first to admit that he’s always been a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to things in both his personal and professional life.
Juggling everything from journalism to Djing to promoting, Rigsy has barely had time to slam on the brakes during the past number of years.
But following upheavals in his professional life last summer, he was given the opportunity to pursue a new project which was intensely close to his heart.
He began working on a young adult novel, centred around the misadventures of a teenage footballer called Lottie.
Inspired by Rigsy and his wife’s work with the Belfast Ravens women’s team – which they founded together – ‘Lottie The Raven’ has emerged as one of the DJ’s proudest achievements.
“The idea for the book came from my work with the Ravens, a team which I set up with my wife. They’ve has really taken off these past few years and it’s been really inspiring to see that.
“I’d always wanted to write a book. I always thought I could write one if I just had a decent idea. So once I had that idea, i just started it, basing most of the incidents on my own slightly traumatic teenage years. I was a very uncomfortable, bullied, mess of a teenager; unhappy in my own skin and social inept. So the book became something which was partially from the football team Lisa and I had set up, and partially from my own experiences.”
The novel follows the Belfast-set adventures of Lottie, a 14-year old footballing prodigy. It’s appeal is in how the character navigates her way through the challenges which almost every teenager faces – pushy parents, relationship troubles, school pressures.
“I think teenagers nowadays are so much more savvy with how they deal with that type of stuff,” David reflects. “So Lottie is more equipped than I ever was. She sort of says the wrong thing, overthinks things, gets herself into ridiculous situations – but the story is about her overcoming these things and navigating her way through that as a football genius.”
The announcement of the novel came as somewhat of a surprise to anyone who had known Rigsy strictly for presenting and Djing. Was there a day when he finally decided, ‘I’m going to sit down and write this book’?
“It was last summer when that happened. Last summer…everything went a bit weird in my professional and personal life. I stood down from presenting Across The Line, which I’d done for about 20 years. I also stood down from my job promoting club nights with Limelight.
“I just needed a change, it was all a bit much. I was losing my mind and putting a lot of pressure on myself. My wife Lisa was pregnant at the time and we were living away from our house. All very first world problems in perspective, but I was feeling very frazzled.
“So the idea for the book, it was almost like this distraction. Then as soon as I started writing, I couldn’t stop. It was like being held at gunpoint. And as soon as I’d written it, I just felt content. I wasn’t rushing to get it published, I was just happy having written it.
“Then at the start of lockdown, I started looking into it again. The people I’d sent to it, they were very encouraging and said that I absolutely needed to get it published. So lockdown was about turning this into something publishable.”
The fact that writing the novel wasn’t one of Rigsy’s paid jobs – with all their rules and fixed deadlines – meant that he was able to relax into the process of writing.
“I was just doing something I enjoyed,” he admits. “I wasn’t writing this for anybody. So because I didn’t have any of that pressure, it didn’t matter. I could just write it. It was either this or playing 10 seasons of Championship Manager!”
Backed by the momentum of a Kickstarter fundraising campaign, Rigsy’s novel has had an overwhelming positive response.
It also had a savvy marketing boost thanks to the arrival of Rigsy’s first child in February – who now bears the name Lottie. He says that she’s been instrumental in the promo. As a journalist, the story writes itself really…
“I love being able to talk about myself for once,” he laughs. “I’ve spent my life interviewing people, so it’s nice to have a chance to talk about something I’ve done which I’m really proud of and which has a really strong connection to my personal life.
“I’ve always considered myself to be a jack-of-all-trades, which means I’ve always had to be moving between jobs and always had to hustle, but with this novel, I’m really proud of it and really believe in it.”
Even with a debut novel under wraps and the changes to his work life last year, Rigsy says he’s still working on a handful of other projects at the moment.
“I recorded a pilot for the BBC radio this morning. Last night I was producing a sports show for the BBC. Then I was DJing a few weeks back at the socially distance version of nightclubs.
“I’ve still been working on countless projects. You just have to. Unless you’re an incredible DJ or an incredible writer or an incredible anything, you have to do a bit of everything. That’s what I’ve always found. You have to pay the mortgage.
“Happily none of what I do, I hate. I enjoy what these jobs. But Lottie, in particular, was nice because it was a relaxed project and it was something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Watch the legendary Jackie Fullerton introduce Lottie The Raven in the video above. Find out more about the novel here.