Monday, October 28, 2013

Author: Maggie Plummer

I'm so excited that Romance author, Maggie Plummer has stopped by for a visit.  Please welcome this very busy author.

Welcome Maggie.  Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a writer and editor from northwest Montana. Along the winding trail to becoming a novelist, I have worked as a journalist, 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. My first book was a non-fiction work entitled Passing It On: Voices from the Flathead Indian Reservation, published in 2008 by Salish Kootenai College Press (Pablo, Montana). Spirited Away – A Novel of the Stolen Irish is my first published novel.

That's amazing.  You are a Jack (or Jill) of all trades!  For new readers—what can they expect when they read your book(s)?
Readers tell me that my novel is a fast read, a page-turner, that opens their eyes about some very important history they’d never heard of. 

What a great quality.  How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
Balance, now there is a goal. I try to put in several hours of writing first thing in the morning, while I have energy. Then, later in the day, I feel free to goof off.

Hehe.  Now that's a plan!  We'd love to hear about your writing space.
I write on a laptop computer, in a recliner part of the time, and at my desk part of the time. I have converted a corner of my dining room into an office space. I live alone, and prefer to have my “office” in the midst of the main house, rather than tucked away in a separate room.

I'm with you on that one.  What you are most passionate about outside of writing?
I would say animal welfare. I hate animal suffering. 

You're very kind.  What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?   
Spirited Away – A Novel of the Stolen Irish is historical fiction.

I began working on it in late 2008, after reading the history section of an Irish travel guidebook and stumbling across this information:  During Oliver Cromwell's Reign of Terror in the 1650s, a majority of Ireland's Catholic population was slaughtered, exiled to the west, or sold into slavery in the Caribbean.
I did a triple-take, amazed. How could it be that I'd never heard of that?

I asked around, and no one else had heard of it either.

The more I read about Cromwell's Reign of Terror in books and Internet articles, the hotter my Irish-American blood boiled. These massacred, ousted, or enslaved people were my ancestors.

I knew I had to write something about this obscure yet pivotal period of Irish history.

That is how Spirited Away: A Novel of the Stolen Irish came to be. While it is a work of fiction, the book is based on historical accounts of events that took place. 

Why did I write this novel? I wrote and self-published it because I feel that Irish slavery was an atrocity that should not be forgotten. I find it outrageous that so few know about it.

I hope that my novel will help bring this fascinating, neglected history to light.
In 1649 Cromwell led an invasion of Ireland that many historians call ethnic cleansing. During the 1650s, Ireland lost about 41 percent of its population. The infamous Irish Famine of 1845 to 1852, by comparison, resulted in a loss of 16 percent of the population.

Cromwell hated Catholicism. Not only was the religion banned, its priests were wanted men. Irish Catholics were murdered, thrown off their land, or "spirited away" to the Caribbean. Irish armies were sent to Europe, leaving behind a massive number of destitute women and children who fled to Connaught, exiled, landless, and with no means of support. Another order proclaimed that since Irish women were now too numerous, and since they were now exposed to prostitution, they could be sold to merchants and transported to Virginia and the West Indies, where they could work to support themselves. Well-paid agents roved the countryside on horseback, rounding up Irish women and children with large whips and driving them like cattle to port cities where they were shackled and loaded onto slave ships.   

An estimated 100,000 Irish people, mostly women and children, were sold to New World plantation owners. In the English colony of Barbados, many of them were literally worked to death. Some were flogged to death. They toiled long days and suffered horrific conditions, disease, starvation, and torture.
"The curse of Cromwell upon you" is still a popular Irish saying. To this day, Irish mothers threaten their misbehaving children with the ultimate punishment: "Cromwell's going to get you!" The bitterness caused by what took place during the 1650s has been a powerful source of Irish nationalism for more than 350 years.

How horrible.  I share your passion (and heritage).  Do your characters come to you first, or the plot, or the world of the story?
The brutal world of this novel came to me first, as I learned about Cromwell’s Reign of Terror in Ireland.

What sets your books apart from other authors’ books?
My novel tells a unique historical tale that most people have never heard of, and takes the reader right into protagonist Freddy’s experiences – both horrific and heartwarming.

How do you go about developing your characters?
For this novel, I did tons of research and imagined what Irish slave life would have been like on a Barbados sugar plantation in the 1650s. I mixed in my own Irish ancestry, and wrote out character descriptions designed to bring this compelling story to life as dramatically and intimately as possible.

Out of all the characters that you've written, who is your favorite and why?
Freddy O’Brennan, definitely. She is magnificent yet flawed, with a strong spirit that refuses to be broken. 

Can you share a little of your current work?
Sure! Here is a short excerpt from the novel’s sequel, which I am currently writing:

            “The gale roared down on them from the west, tossing the Alizé every which way. Colin braced himself, hugged the mast with his good arm, and nodded to Johnny. The first officer looped a thick rope around Colin’s waist and tied the other end around the base of the mast. The sloop yawed with a wild jerk. Once more cursing his lame arm, Colin knew he was helpless to do anything but watch sheets of horizontal rain wash over them as the men scurried to batten her down. Johnny had tried to make him stay in his bunk, but Colin was having none of it. He shook the rain from his eyes.
            ““The damned wind picks up!” Johnny leaned in close, but kept his eyes trained on the bow. Colin followed Johnny’s watchful gaze. The massive bowsprit had vanished into the side of a twenty-foot wave. “I say we lie her a-hull! We’ve sea-room and she’ll drift out.”
            ““Aye, bare the poles!” 
            “Johnny hollered to the men. Some of them untied themselves to clamber aloft, a right dangerous business in wicked seas. Colin closed his eyes and rested his cheek against the solid mast, tightening his grip on it. Above him the shrouds groaned under their load and the wind sang a mournful, high-pitched dirge in the rigging. Dear Lord, keep the men safe, Colin prayed, let ‘er hold. Jesus, don’t let the storm get any heavier. It was not hurricane season and, he reasoned, the sixty-foot sloop had saved their hides again and again. Sure she was small for such a gale, but he knew her to be seaworthy. Hadn't she always carried them to safety? She had, she had.
            “The men secured her and, as best they could, pointed her into the teeth of the storm. Earlier they had hauled in the dinghy, which usually bobbed along behind them. They had carried heavy ropes up from below and tied the ends to the mast. If it got worse they would use ‘em to undergird the sloop, to strengthen her against the waves.
            “A line snapped far above, and the topsail began flapping hard enough to break the topmast. Owyn was aloft, tying the course tight to the gaff. He yelled something down, but the wind made it impossible to hear. The youngster pointed to the topsail, and Johnny nodded.
            ““Take care, lad!” Colin and Johnny bellowed. But it had to be done. That sail had to be cut away.
            “Owyn didn’t hesitate. He scrambled all the way up to the topsail yard, held himself steady with his legs and one arm, and slashed at the topsail rigging. Suddenly the yard snapped, whipped around in the wind, and whacked him in the head just as the Alizé plunged into the bottom of a trough. Owyn disappeared as he was thrown off and swept away.
            ““OWYN!” Colin shouted, frantic. Johnny, in the fo'c'sle helping with the staysail, had not seen nor heard. Colin used the slack in his rope to slide on his backside down the lurching deck, toward the rail. “OWYN!” he yelled again, as loud as he could, searching the angry gray sea for any sign of the lad. There was nothing. He struggled to his feet and peered through the driving rain at the sea behind them. Nothing. 
            “The sloop pitched hard, slamming Colin into the mast. White pain seared through his bad arm. The wind’s wail faded to a murmur and his vision dimmed, until all was silent and dark.”

Where can readers find more information on you?
I hope to have my author website finished soon. Above, I listed the link to my Amazon Author Page. Also, I have a Facebook author page and can be found on Twitter. Here are the links:

Spirited Away - A Novel of the Stolen Irish is a 60,000-word historical novel that paints an intimate, compelling portrait of 1650s Irish slavery in the Caribbean.

The novel currently has 83 five-star reviews (a total of 162 reviews, with an average 4.2 stars).

Here is a description:

In May 1653, fourteen-year-old Freddy O’Brennan trusts the wrong stranger on an empty beach in western Ireland and inadvertently places herself in the crosshairs of Cromwell’s notorious Reign of Terror.

Freddy awakens in the cramped hold of a slave ship bound for Barbados. Ripped from her loved ones, she endures a gruesome voyage and a vile auction. Freddy, sold to the highest bidder, alone, and far from her beloved homeland, faces the brutal realities of life as a female Irish slave on a seventeenth century Barbados plantation. Amidst the island's treacherous beauty, she must find a way to bear her cruel, drunken Master using her as a breeding slave and kitchen drudge.

Heartsick with yearning for her family and the farm life she knew, Freddy reaches deep inside herself for the strength she needs to protect her young spirit from being broken. As she struggles to survive, she risks everything for the sake of loyal friendship and love.

Maggie, thank you so much for visiting.  Your passion shows in your writing, and I'm so glad there are writers like you who turn history into fascinating stories.


Anonymous said...

Hi Maggie
It was great to read about you and your books. I will certainly add them to my TBR list. I wish you every success

Lyn Horner said...

Maggie, I read about Cromwell's rampage through Ireland but did not know about the Irish who were sent into exile. It's a terrible travesty, one of many suffered by the Irish at the hands of English invaders. I deeply admire you for tackling this heart wrenching subject. I also like the excerpt from your WIP. Very dramatic!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Maggie,
Wonderful interview. The Stolen Irish is already on my waiting to be read list. Your WIP sounds equally good.

Best wishes


Anonymous said...

thank you so much, Susan, Lyn, and Margaret! I love hearing from you on here and, Margaret, I sure hope you're right about the sequel being equally good. I'm in the thick of it these days. thanks again for the comments!