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It’s a long way, from Tipperary

by on April 10, 2014

Today we should all welcome Maggie Plummer, who has leapt at the opportunity (all right, I prodded her with a sharp stick until she agreed) to come onto my blog and tell us all a little about herself.

She confesses her all (oo er):

Maggie Plummer is a writer and editor who lives in northwest Montana. Along the winding trail to becoming a novelist, she has worked as a journalist, book editor, book publicist, census enumerator, school bus driver, field interviewer, waitress, post office clerk, fish processor, library clerk, retail salesperson, Good Humor (ice cream) girl, fishing boat first mate, race horse hot walker, apple picker, and bus girl. (Yes, she realizes this wild and woolly variety of experiences would make a great memoir or novel. She declines to divulge the title she has already dreamed up.)

maggie1

And as you are here, I presume you have a book out?

I do, indeed, Will. SPIRITED AWAY – A NOVEL OF THE STOLEN IRISH is a 60,000-word historical novel that paints an intimate portrait of 1650s Irish slavery in the Caribbean.

Here is a summary of the novel’s plot:

In May 1653, young Frederica (Freddy) O’Brennan and her sister Aileen trust a stranger on an empty beach in western Ireland, inadvertently placing themselves in the crosshairs of Cromwell’s notorious Reign of Terror.

Freddy awakens in the crammed hold of a slave ship bound for Barbados. Ripped from their loved ones, she and Aileen endure the voyage – only to be wrenched apart when purchased at auction by sugar plantation owners from different islands. Freddy faces the brutal realities of life as a female Irish slave on a seventeenth century Barbados sugar plantation. Amidst the island’s treacherous beauty, she must find a way to bear her cruel, drunken Master’s abuse.

Heartsick with yearning for her family, Freddy must reach deep inside herself for the strength she needs to protect her young spirit from being broken. As she struggles to survive rape, degradation, beatings, and the harrowing spectacle of her Irish countrymen being flogged and starved to death, she is buoyed by powerful friendships with her fellow slaves – especially the Native American kitchen slave with whom she works long hours in the plantation cookhouse. The two women risk severe punishment by sneaking food and medicine to the suffering Irish and African field slaves.

Eventually Freddy braves much more for the sake of love and loyal friendship.

Sales link: To sample or purchase the novel: http://www.amazon.com/Spirited-Away-Novel-Stolen-Irish/dp/1478140267

Other books in the series?
I am currently at work on this novel’s sequel, which I hope to finish writing this year.

What made you start writing?
I have been dabbling at creative writing since the 1970s.

What made me start writing this novel in particular was stumbling across this information: During Oliver Cromwell’s Reign of Terror in the 1650s, a majority of Ireland’s Catholic population was either slaughtered, exiled to the west, or sold into slavery in the Caribbean. When I read that, I did a triple-take, amazed. How could it be that I’d never heard of that? Friends I asked hadn’t heard of this history either. The more I read about Cromwell’s Reign of Terror in books and Internet articles, the hotter my Irish-American blood boiled. I had to write something about this obscure yet pivotal period of Irish history.

That is how the novel’s main character, Freddy O’Brennan, came to be. With the exception of Cromwell, all of the characters in the novel are fictional. The story, however, is based on historical accounts of events that took place.

One of my favorite, and most intriguing, characters in this novel is Birdie Moss. In my writer’s mind, Birdie takes the image of a classic indian lady.

Birdie is a Monacan Indian from the Piedmont area of what was then called the Virginia Colony. A key figure in the novel, she ended up in Barbados after being sold into slavery by an enemy tribe of her people. The Monacan are considered an “eastern Sioux” tribe. Since the 1600s, they have been pushed further and further west, up into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

In the novel, here is how my main character, Freddy O’Brennan, sees Birdie for the first time:

“Next to the pallet a petite dark woman squatted, one finger pressed to her lips, her wide-set brown eyes pleading for silence. Freddy froze. She’d never seen anyone like her. The curve of the woman’s eyebrows arched into a long, prominent nose. With her high cheekbones, it gave her the look of an exotic eagle. Her single black rope of a braid curled over her shoulder and hung down to the dirt floor. The white gown tucked up between her legs revealed bare feet that in the dwindling light were a rich, chocolate color…”

I hope those who read my novel will fall in love with Birdie Moss, as I have!

SPIRITED AWAY – A NOVEL OF THE STOLEN IRISH is my first published novel. I am also the author of PASSING IT ON: VOICES FROM THE FLATHEAD INDIAN RESERVATION, published in 2008 by Salish Kootenai College Press (Pablo, Montana).

My author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/maggieplummer

(some other things you might be interested in mentioning: SPIRITED AWAY is…
“Best Author” Winner, Missoula’s Choice Awards 2014
2nd Place, Best Historical Fiction of 2013, The Paranormal Romance Guild (PRG)
2013 Finalist, Best Indie Book Awards)

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/Dl-XDBBy0BE

Actually, Maggie’s story drove me to pick up a life of Cromwell from my bookshelf for the first time. Written by John Buchan (the famous novelist The 39 Steps, Greenmantle etc) it isn’t a period of history much taught in schools in England and Wales. I knew of Cromwell’s famous sacking of Drogheda, but against the background of warfare at the time the behaviour of the troops -awful to our modern eyes- was normal for any army that had been forced by the defenders to fight with heavy losses through a defended breach in the walls. A largely Irish army under Wellesley was to behave much worse in Spain at Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz a hundred and fifty years later, for example. But otherwise I read of a hard and ruthless man, a religious fundamentalist who liked to use the Bible to justify his every action. We decried personal ambition as a sin, but arranged to be paid a salary of thirteen thousand pounds a year during his time in Ireland.* When recalled by Parliament from Ireland, he simply ignored the order for five months, and continued drawing his salary. In England, he once put down a ‘disturbance’ in his troops by seizing the three ringleaders, and making them throw dice for their lives in front of him. The loser was dragged outside and shot out of hand. When the twenty thousand Irish women Maggie alludes to reached the slave fields of Barbados, the first people they would have met in the fields were thousands of English slaves, deported there by Cromwell for the crime of being his political opponents (or supporters of the King) or of being poor or untrained levies in the King’s army. The trained soldiers he captured who would not swear allegiance to him, Cromwell sold overseas into the service of a foreign country – commonly the army of Republic of Venice who would pay well and were far enough away to prevent the deportees returning alive… Cromwell financed his army and later his political administration by exiling rich political opponents, seizing their wealth and selling their land and houses to the highest bidder. Starting as a minor politician at the start of the Civil War, he ended as the most important Parliamentary General and went on to use his army to enforce his personal political power, in effect running a military dictatorship for ten years. All this from a biographer who clearly liked the man as well. I didn’t. So not the nicest figure in history and perhaps it is no wonder that much of that period is kept out of the schools.

*In modern comparison, that is about thirteen times the salary of the Prime Minister of the UK, and maybe seven times the salary of the President of the USA. However you look at it, it was a frankly enormous sum, equivalent to over two million pounds a year. Paid for by taxation and land seizures.

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13 Comments
  1. Reblogged this on L. W. Browning Blog and commented:
    This is very interesting and I loved the book!

  2. Yay Maggie and Will. Great article and I loved the book.

  3. Kellie permalink

    Great blog!

  4. Rebecca Douglass permalink

    Wow. Count me as another who didn’t know that about Cromwell and that period of English history. On the one hand–not surprising, since British history isn’t hugely taught in US schools. OTOH, a little surprising since I did post-graduate studies in English lit, though my focus on the Middle Ages may have led me to slight the later history 🙂

    • hi there, Rebecca. very few seem to know about this slice of history. but the Irish sure do remember that Cromwell was “the bad guy.” many Irish mothers still tell their children, when warning them to be good: “Behave, or Cromwell’s gonna getcha!”

  5. I should have added that Cromwell also had a reputation as one whose given word was worthless and who was devious and untrustworthy in negotiations of all kinds. It’s worth some reading about a man who makes modern politicians look respectable

  6. Will, great blog! I love your comment here about Cromwell making modern politicians look respectable, and your information from the Cromwell biography. so, were the English unfortunates who were shipped off to Barbados sent over there before the Irish? it was probably quite the mix of humanity, and few survived that field slavery experience. thank you so much for featuring me on your blog, Will! now I am off to tweet it out and share it on Facebook.

    • Hi Maggie, from what I read yes, the English guys were shipped out before the irish. It seemed that Cromwell routinely got rid of those he captured in open warfare this way. The disgraceful removal of all those irish women was another matter, of course, but it was all about raising revenue. Thanks for the reblog!

  7. Reblogged this on maggiesnovel.

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