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Local woman sheds light on Irish history

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POLSON — In preparation for a trip to Ireland in 2008, Maggie Plummer read a travel guide. A few lines about Oliver Cromwell’s reign of terror during the 1650s captured Plummer’s interest and provided the seed for her next book, “Spirited Away.”

In an effort to rid Ireland of Catholics, Cromwell’s soldiers slaughtered, exiled or sold Irish people into slavery in the Caribbean. In her author’s statement, Plummer said in the 1650s, Ireland lost about 41 percent of its population. 

England was just beginning to colonize other countries, Plummer explained. Planters in Barbados were raising sugar cane, a labor-intensive crop, and needed workers. Sugar cane was too bulky to ship raw so cane needed to be processed and boiled down so sugar could be shipped around the world. 

Plummer’s main character’s name is Frederica “Freddie” O’Brennan, a 13-year-old Irish girl, who lives in County Kilkenny. She and her younger sister, Aileen, are kidnapped and sent to Barbados. Another important character is a Monocan Indian woman named Birdie. There are also buccaneers, French people, Creoles and African slaves. 

The Irish setting at the beginning of the novel was a tip of the hat to Plummer’s own Irish-American grandmother, Eleanor Brennan Plummer from County Kilkenny.

The book, Plummer’s first published novel, tells the Freddie’s story of life on a sugar plantation as an Irish slave.  

Plummer worked on her novel full-time for almost four years, writing about four hours a day with a goal of a chapter a week. She was employed part of that time, which slowed down the book. “Spirited Away” is approximately 60,000 words.  

Research about the 1650s was difficult, she said, since not a lot was written.  With the help of reference books and Google, Plummer persevered. She paid close attention to the language, researching the etymology, or the history and origin of words and phrases.

Plummer and Mary Barmeyer O’Brien, who is also a writer, critique and edit each other’s work. O’Brien edited “Spirited Away,” twice, Plummer said. Plummer’s writers group also critiqued her work.

Her novel is totally self-published on Amazon, Plummer noted. She designed the cover, too. 

Now Plummer is marketing “Spirited Away” on Twitter and Facebook. She hopes to hold some local book signings. 

Plummer also plans a sequel to “Spirited Away.”  

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