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Author interview: Ruta Sepetys

March 22, 2011

A few weeks ago, I read and adored a new YA book, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.  This book touched me in such a personal way that I sent the author a few fan emails, and she was kind enough to email me back and answer a few questions.   Here’s what she had to say:

RS – We often put things into extreme categories–good and evil, for example. But the truth is rarely either black or white. More often, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, between shades of gray. I wanted the title to reflect that dynamic.

  • Although I think the book will cross into the adult market, it is being marketed as YA.  What made you decide to write it as YA?

RS – Adolescence is an intense time. Many of the survivors I met were teens when they were deported to Siberia and their stories were incredibly compelling. I thought that making the main character a young girl might add an interesting dimension to the story. Also, because this part of history is not well known, I hoped that the book might find its way to teachers and librarians and the YA market is very well suited for that.

  • What was the biggest surprise you discovered as you researched this book?

RS – The biggest surprise was learning about the force of life and the power of love. The survivors told me countless, harrowing stories and described how they were able to bear the unbearable. They used hope instead of hate. These three small countries have taught us a large lesson about the miracles that are hope and courage and how to speak when your voice has been extinguished.

  • The video for the book is fabulous.  I cry every time I watch it.  Can you tell us a little bit about the process of making it?

RS – Thank you! My husband filmed the interview footage of me, and also my father. The interview footage of the survivors came from a film called “Red Terror on the Amber Coast” by Domedia Productions. It’s a wonderful movie about the Soviet occupation in the Baltics. Pirate Post Studios here in Franklin, TN created graphics and did all the amazing editing work. A fantastic film composer, Niels Bye Nielsen, scored the music for the video and created the opening sequence and visuals.

  • Do you have plans to write any more books?  Any chance they’ll be about Lithuania?

RS – Yes, I’m working on another book now for my publisher, Philomel. It’s set in New Orleans in the 1950’s.

Once again, I’d like to thank Ruta for taking the time out to answer my questions.  Be sure to check out Shades of Gray, if you haven’t already.  I can’t wait to see what Ruta comes up with next!  Be sure to check out her Facebook page.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. March 22, 2011 5:49 am

    Loved this book, too, and I love that you spent this time finding out more about Ruta, and sharing your knowing with us.

  2. March 22, 2011 6:46 am

    Just finished this book at 3:30 in the morning. So powerful, so beautiful, and so moving. Your interview questions are great!

  3. March 22, 2011 6:53 am

    I have heard fantastic reviews for Between Shades of Gray! It was wonderful to read the interview 🙂

  4. March 22, 2011 9:08 am

    I am going to be reading this book soon, and after having read your outstanding review on it, and this interview, I am really excited to be able to experience it for myself. It does sound like such an intense read. Wonderful interview, Kathy!

  5. March 22, 2011 9:25 am

    golly, between the interview and the other comments, this is one I have to check out!

  6. March 22, 2011 9:34 am

    I look forward to reading this book. I have seen it a couple times recently and find myself drawn to it. Lovely interview.

  7. March 22, 2011 9:35 am

    I’m surprised that she made her own marketing decision. I wonder if that’s usual?

  8. March 22, 2011 9:50 am

    Great interview Bermudaonion!

  9. March 22, 2011 10:19 am

    Thank you so much for the interview and the link to the video for the book ( I see what you mean about it making you cry). Thank you to Ruta for taking the time to answer questions. I really can’t wait to get this book.

  10. March 22, 2011 12:26 pm

    Great interview! I’m still keeping an eye on that book – your review and this interview has me curious.

  11. stacybuckeye permalink
    March 22, 2011 12:28 pm

    Well now I’m going to have to watch the video! Great questions, Kathy.

  12. March 22, 2011 1:06 pm

    Well, as you know I am forever drawn to the tale of survivors of WWII, as my in-laws are part of it. And this book got the nod from EW this past week, and was already on my list. I will be getting this book soon and I can’t wait to read it. Plus, it would be hard not to love the book just because the author is just a fantastic woman.

  13. March 22, 2011 1:53 pm

    I would love to read her book. Terrific interview, Kathy!

  14. March 22, 2011 2:29 pm

    The video for this book is amazing, wow! Thank you for including it in this interview, Kathy. Ruta is wonderful. Thank you for emailing her and sharing this interview. I haven’t read this book yet but I certainly want to…with some trepidation. It saddens me so to realize that Stalin terrorized and brutalized innocent people. sheesh.

  15. March 22, 2011 9:54 pm

    I have an ARC of the book and the video made me cry as well — so beautifully done. XOX

  16. March 22, 2011 11:13 pm

    i read your review of ‘shades of gray’ and am going to read it to see if i can use it with my students at school! i love that you contacted the author and she was gracious enough to answer some questions. it’s always a good feeling when authors can connect with readers like this. great interview and review, kathy!

  17. March 22, 2011 11:22 pm

    Great interview! I’m supposed to be getting a copy of this book but it hasn’t found it’s way to my house yet. Hope it does soon!

  18. March 23, 2011 1:50 am

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m off to take a closer look at the book.

  19. March 23, 2011 10:02 am

    This was definitely one of my favorite books and will more than likely make my own personal Best of Books – such incredible history and told from a unique and authentic voice! What a great interview and I cannot wait to read Ruta’s next work – New Orleans in the 1950s sounds exactly like something I would love to read!

  20. March 23, 2011 3:54 pm

    Great interview Kathy. And by the way, didn’t you change your font on your blog? I like it!

  21. March 23, 2011 4:59 pm

    Another A + interview. Good questions to bring us further into the reasoning behind why Ruta chose her title and personal history into the book.
    Will have to seek out this book soon.

  22. March 24, 2011 7:56 am

    I liked this author interview and will certainly be reading this one 😀

  23. March 24, 2011 12:58 pm

    This was so great, thank you Kathy! You know how much I adored this book and still weeks later it is in my head floating around.

  24. March 27, 2011 7:57 am

    I’m looking forward to reading this book even more now that I’ve read this interview. I find her thoughts on trying to target the YA market for educational purposes to wondeful.

  25. Thoughts of Joy permalink
    April 3, 2011 5:19 pm

    I’m bookmarking this to read after I read the book. It’s been on my nightstand waiting for me. Hopefully it’ll reach my hands soon!

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