Acclaimed author Jennifer Donnelly won the prestigious U.K. literary prize, the Carnegie Medal, for her first young adult novel A Northern Light. “I almost fell out of my chair when my publisher told me,” she recently told Irish America. The delighted writer was the only American nominated for the medal and only the second American ever to win the prize.
Donnelly, whose great-great paternal grandfather emigrated from Ireland to northern New York, said that her Irish heritage has contributed greatly to her decision to be a writer. “I grew up in a storytelling family,” she said proudly. Although she consistently writes historical fiction, she does vary her targeted audience by writing for different age groups.
Like many talented writers, Donnelly persisted in the face of adversity at the beginning of her career. Publishers rejected her work for almost 10 years before she finally saw her books come out in print. A Northern Light is her third book.
The prize-winning novel is set in New York’s Adirondack Mountains in the early 1900s, and the real-life murder of a young woman serves as the backdrop of the main character’s coming of age. Discussing the dark subject matter, Donnelly said, “We do a great disservice to young people when we pretend that life is like a Disney movie. Besides, anything you watch on the six o’clock news is more disturbing.” She is currently working on a sequel to her successful book Tea Rose and a new novel. ♦