The mystery at the heart of Marcus Sedgwick’s labyrinthine Midwinterblood is so well hidden, it’s not even initially clear what the mystery is at all. Seven stories—from a young journalist in 2027 to a vampire in the 10th century—unfold in reverse chronological order on this magical Scandinavian island, revealing a dark and complex tale of eternal love and sacrifice. Our young adult literature expert Jill Ratzan predicted Midwinterblood would earn the 2014 Printz Award, and indeed it won. We caught up with British author Sedgwick to find out what it's like to win the Printz.
What was the first thing that went through your head when you found out you had won the Printz?
When I heard the news I was in a taxi in Kuala Lumpur. It was pitch black, about six in the morning, and it all seemed like a dream, and that perhaps it wasn't real. But when I was sure about what I was being told, I nearly screamed, possibly scared the taxi driver in the process.
Who was the one person you couldn't wait to tell about the award?
My partner, Maureen. I'm on the other side of the world at the moment. The book is dedicated to her and I had to tell her it had won.
Do you have a favorite past Printz winner?
That's a tough question because in its short life, the Printz has gone to some incredible books. For me it comes down to a close run thing between three books, but I'm going to pick Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese—for a few reasons: It won against some amazing writers; I'm a big fan of comics; and I'm always happy when a book prize goes to a genuinely kind and humble person.
What's the best part of writing books for a younger audience?
More tough questions! If I had to pick one thing, it would be the freedom. In many ways younger readers are more open minded than older ones. More open to strange and wonderful ideas. If you're writing books and want to push boundaries a little bit, then that's a very good thing.
What kind of reaction have you gotten from your readers about this book?
My main concern about Midwinterblood was to make sure it felt like one novel, not just a set of seven short stories. I worked hard on trying to make it feel cohesive. No one seems to have levelled that complaint at me, so I hope it does have the seven parts feeling of an eighth, larger, story.
Have you read or listened to past Printz acceptance speeches? Are you excited (or worried!) about your own speech?
I was present in 2011 when Paolo Bacigalupi won with Ship Breaker. He made a great speech, as did the Honor recipients that year. Like many awards, the acceptance speech has become a focus of attention. I will give it some thought, try not to let anyone down and try not to weep.
What's next for you?
It's a busy time—my first adult novel appears in the UK in March, and there's more publicity to do for my current book, She Is Not Invisible. Some trips abroad for festivals, and then it will be time to head for Las Vegas for ALA 2014.
Author photo © Kate Christer