Midwinterblood: Guest Post & Giveaway with Marcus Sedgwick


February 13, 2013 by Heidi

Midwinterblood Blog Tour


Today I am thrilled to play host to a YA author genius of all things creepy, Marcus Sedgwick, as we talk about his wonderful new US release, Midwinterblood.  If you stopped by last week, you saw that I was a huge fan of this unconventional tale that was simultaneously atmospheric, eerie, and positively original.  I asked Marcus to tell us about his inspiration through the Carl Larsson painting and his use of recurring characters throughout time.  He is, I am happy to report, stunningly obliging!

Take it away, Marcus!


How long does it take to write a book? It’s a question you get asked often as a writer, and one I always hesitate over answering. I must look pretty stupid when I do – surely he knows how long it took him? – but the reason I hesitate is because it depends what you mean. Do you mean the length of time that you were in front of your computer with a Word doc open? If that’s the case, Word has a nifty feature that will actually tell you to the minute how long you took to ‘write’ the book. But there’s more to it than that, so should it include the time you spent making plans (if you do such things), and before that the time you spent making notes? And before that the time you spent reading things, getting ideas, and generally staring into thin air and pretending it’s all part of the hard work? And if you want to include that, then don’t all these things depend on who you are, and everything you’ve experienced up to that point? Is that how long it really takes to write a book – your whole life?

Enough of these existential and slightly silly questions. The point is that I first saw the painting known as Midvinterblot, or Midwinter Sacrifice, by Carl Larsson, around six years ago. At the time I knew Carl Larsson only from his small and charming depictions of old-style Swedish life; scenes of midsummer parties, or butter-churning, or Christmas Eve celebrations.

When I stumbled up the steps of Stockholm’s National Museum therefore, and turned and saw the vast work hanging on the wall behind me, I was blown away. The painting is over 15 yards wide. That’s the first thing to know. It is HUGE.

Midvinterblot by Carl Larrson

The main figures in it are greater than life-size, and what the painting depicts is a scene from pre-Christian Sweden, in which the legendary King Domaldr is about to be sacrificed in order to bring back fertility to the land, which has been suffering from famine and pestilence.

The colours are superb, the composition striking – the central still trio of figures around which swirls the chaos of the ceremony. But the real genius of the painting is this; it doesn’t show the sacrifice itself. No doubt Larsson could have painted that, but instead he chose to show the moment immediately before the terrible act. That’s its power – it’s the quiet before the storm, the moment before the football game gets going, the breath in before the diver plunges, the whistle through the air as the executioner’s blade falls and the crowd falls quiet with it.

I immediately knew I wanted to write a book about it. But at the time, I just didn’t know what ‘about’ meant. It took me about four years to work out how to do it. A couple of summers ago, I revisited the museum with a friend, and on the way home the following day, all the answers popped into my head. I wouldn’t write just one version of what was happening in the painting, but seven, each in a different historical period. They would be linked by the setting for the story, a mysterious island, and by the twin themes of sacrifice, and love. And there would be two characters in each story who are the same pair on the inside, though they become different people on the outside. Through each story they meet and re-meet, trying to find each other, to know each other again.

Since I wrote the book I’ve deliberately tried to avoid using the word reincarnation, because, being the age I am it just feels a bit too 1970s. The 1970s was all tie-dying and karma and UFOs-abducted-my-wife and knit-your-own-sandals-from-tofu. I wanted to stay away from those kinds of things.

But I guess I have to come clean and admit that it is a book about reincarnation, though I prefer to see it this way; it’s more about who else you might have been. What other potential lives you could have lived, if you haven’t ended up with the one you have. That’s the real driving force behind the book – I think lots of us have had that feeling from time to time – why we can’t experience other versions of our own lives, and not just the one we have? But, since we only have the one, the most important thing is to make the greatest success of it you can. Be adventurous. Give love. Be kind. And, at all costs, avoid sacrificing your loved ones on a giant stone altar.


Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick book cover

I’ve now slightly disturbed myself by contemplating knitting with tofu, though I suppose that might count as adventurous…better than signing up for ritual sacrifice, I suppose.  Thanks, Marcus!

You can follow the awesome Marcus Sedgwick on TwitterFacebook, or his website. Don’t forget to check out the other fantastic stops on the Midwinterblood Blog Tour!

Giveaway: Midwinterblood is available now, and I really couldn’t recommend it more for those of you who enjoy the slightly chilling and an unconventional set-up.  Lucky for you, the lovely folks over at Macmillan are offering one finished copy up for grabs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


If you liked that you might like this:


  1. Bahahaha, I think that Marcus Sedgwick needs to knit some tofu sandals. That is a skill. I hope there’s some humor like that in his book to cut the horror. I love when books have a balance like that.

    Also, I would never have guessed that this book would be inspired by that painting, which is pretty damn awesome.

  2. I am so excited to read this. Yes, alien abduction is a little out-there, but I have nothing against reincarnation stories. Not sure about those tofu sandals….

  3. Cecelia says:

    Okay, I’m sold. This book sounds terrific. As for art that inspires me… I really love John Singer Sargent’s pieces. I imagine the lives of the women he paints (much more interesting than mine, naturally).

  4. Li says:

    I would love to see that painting IRL! I’m not entirely sold on reincarnation stories, but your review and the genre-bending aspect of the novel intrigued me. And now I definitely want to check it out.

    • Heidi says:

      I would love to see it too, Li! I like this one because they aren’t like a couple destined to be together in every lifetime, the relationships change, and sometimes they never even meet but have a very tangential affect on one another’s lives–I really enjoyed that.

  5. Too 1970s. Hah hah hah.

    And I love this, too:

    But, since we only have the one, the most important thing is to make the greatest success of it you can. Be adventurous. Give love. Be kind. And, at all costs, avoid sacrificing your loved ones on a giant stone altar.

    Wonderful guest post to accompany your wonderful review!!

    • Heidi says:

      Isn’t that last bit fantastic? I love it–also I love that this did take on reincarnation in a very non-1970s kind of way. 😛

  6. I love that last paragraph – the idea of thinking of reincarnation as all the other possibilities that could have happened in your life, all the other versions of you that may have emerged if your personality hadn’t been shaped by your circumstances in THIS life. Fantastic post – I really need to check out a book by this author soon!

  7. Heather Massey says:

    OMG!! I love giveaways!!

  8. Have you seen The Lady of Shallot by William Holman? I remember going to the Wadsworth when I was probably 9 and I stood in front of the painting so long that Nina had walked away thinking I was next to her. She came back minutes later and I remember saying “Why is her yarn everywhere?” and Nin told me the story and how she looked at Lancelot and was then doomed…I couldn’t really fathom this, being so young. I kept wondering why she desperately needed to look at Lancelot and why she would risk everything for a glimpse of him…and more importantly how she was going to get that yarn untangled…Nina explained that really, that was the whole point.

    Looking back I just see Lancelot as a dbag who really brought about the ruin of multiple women…

    Perhaps I’m jaded..

    • Heidi says:

      Alyssa! I love love love this story! I hadn’t seen this painting before, but I just looked it up and I can totally imagine little Alyssa being mesmerized by it and the story that goes with it. I’d honestly never really been to an art museum until I was an adult, but I’ve since loved going to the Met. I was totally in love with the movie First Knight as a kid, but I’m with you, Lancelot was a douche.

  9. Emilia says:

    I’ve been so excited about this book since I heard about it last year! I’m also glad to see it’s finally available!

    • Emilia says:

      Oh and I forgot to mention a work of art that inspires me. I can’t really think of a specific painting, but I know I’ve been inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites.

  10. Kaethe says:

    Well, I guess that’s the difference between and writer and a reader. I respond to art, but I’m not inspired by it. Really looking forward to this, and I’m old enough to appreciate the avoidance of the idea of reincarnation.

  11. Natalie says:

    This book sounds absolutely fantastic!! I love books about reincarnation. And the way the author was inspired to write this book is awesome! I can’t wait to read this book :)

  12. Sometimes, when authors do guest posts, they read like something the author was just trying to “get over with,” you know? But this post reads like you walked up to Sedgwick, asked him a question, he thought out what he wanted to say, and then just told you exactly what he thought. And I loved it. He seems like one of those people you could listen to for hours on end. I’m aware that I sound creepy.

    • Heidi says:

      YES! I love how thoughtful all of Marcus Sedgwick’s posts are, his writing makes this tour one of the few that I’ve actually followed around to make sure I get to read all of his posts–they’re all fascinating. I’d totally listen to him for hours, and HE’S a little creepy, so I’m cool with reciprocating that. 😛

  13. […] Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick–I recieved this as a thank you for participating in the Midwinterblood tour. Given that I enjoyed it so much, I’m quite happy to have it on hand.  Thanks Macmillan! The […]

  14. […] on the brink of something but never quite getting there (Sedgwick puts this in a great way in another guest post on a blog, and he really tells a great version of his own themes in writing the book.).  In […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.