Thursday, March 31, 2011

Before the Book: Ruta Sepetys on Research

The thing about BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY--and all historical novels--is that (if they're going to be any good at all) they require copious amounts of research. It is clear from page one that Ruta loved the topic and was meticulous in her research. Today, I'm asking her about the story behind the story.


Where did you start with your research? You’ve clearly done a lot—interviews, history, etc. It seems overwhelming.

I started by researching historical materials that are available. Once I moved through those, I started going deeper and looking for people to interview and ways I could conduct research on my own.

Are there any parts of the story you wrote that directly reflect something from your research.

Oh definitely. Many of the experiences I describe in the novel were things survivors recounted. For example, the scene at the train station with the father’s wedding ring, the boys smoking books, the owl, and the scene with the baby.

Is there anything from your research that you wished you could have included, but couldn’t?

Yes, there was a scene that we had to cut out of the novel that I really loved. It explained exactly how all of the teachers wound up on Stalin’s extermination list. Teachers were very high on the target list and I wish I could have included details about their situation.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope readers feel that through examining these tragic parts of history and learning from mistakes of the past we create hope for a more just future. These three small countries have taught us a large lesson – how to speak when your voice has been extinguished.

What does your family think of your book?

My family has been incredibly supportive! My father fled from Lithuania when he was a young boy and I know he recognized the spirit and endurance of several characters in the book. It brought back a lot of memories.




Between Shades of Gray Prize Pack:
Signed ARC of BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY
Signed bookplate
Bookmarks
Music download card


All this week, I'll be posting about BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY. Comment on a post, you get an entry for the random drawing. Five posts = five chances to comment and win. So come back every day this week for another chance to comment and win! 

Also, I thought it might be easier if I suggested some topics for comments--you don't have to comment on the following questions to enter (a simple "please enter me!" is fine), I just thought it might be fun to get a real discussion going.

Question 1: If you're a writer--historical fiction or not--do you have any tips for research?


Question 2: If you're a reader--what historical topic would you like to see a novel on?

24 comments:

Bekka said...

Great interview! I love when authors research the topics they're writing about. You can really tell the difference between extensive research, reading, interviewing, etc., and when someone reads a Wikipedia article.

I'm a huge fan of historical fiction- it all stemmed from reading The Other Boleyn Girl at my grandmother's house (while I was on punishment!) I would love to see a YA novel about the Tudors. Anne Boleyn especially; she was a young adult, after all.

ansindt said...

Would love to enter this contest=) Pick me please

Vivien said...

I would love to read more about the Egyptians. I love historical, and this isn't used that often.

Vivien
deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Nicole Settle said...

I love how there are scenes that reflect actual experiences people had.

Jessy said...

"I hope readers feel that through examining these tragic parts of history and learning from mistakes of the past we create hope for a more just future."
I hope this is true. I know it hurts me to hear about this time in history.

Christi said...

Proper research can make or brea a great historical novel. If someone loves their topic enough to write a book about it, then they should certainly take the extra steps (as it would seem Ruta has) to make sure that their work is as historically accurate as possible. Each post is making me want to read this book more and more!

Maria Touet said...

I am sharing this video with one of our history teachers here at Pope John XXIII High School. I think this book would be a great book for any class on the 20th century. I'm hoping it will go on the Summer Reading list!
Please enter me!
Maria Touet

Matthew MacNish said...

It's very difficult to write about something in history as tragic as this, if you weren't there, and still make it authentic and respectful. It sounds like Ruta has done an excellent job. Great interview, thanks so much, ladies!

Jen said...

I'd love to read a historical fiction book around the time of the Titanic. I think it would be interesting to read a book from the perspective someone in either America (waiting for a friend/family member) or someone in England (who sent a friend off on the Titanic).

Mrs. Light said...

I would like to read a historical fiction book on Elizabeth I

jpetroroy said...

I'd love to see a book on immigration to Ellis Island.

jpetroroy at gmail dot com

ashelynn sanford said...

I spend a lot of time in the library with research. I *love* the library! <3

Anonymous said...

I'm really excited to read this book!

meanmisskittie at gmail dot come

Katie said...

I love Nazi era hist. fiction. The Book Thief, mostly.

lulilut said...

I would have liked to have read the part about the teachers too. Thanks for posting the interview.

I'm a reader and I like all kinds of historical novels. As long as the story is well-written I like to read the writers' interpretation of events and the people involved and what the writer found interesting.

d.septer at insightbb.com

Shari said...

I loved this interview. Great questions. I wish she could have used the teacher scene. I would have liked to see more of that. I have written historical and used lots of online research as well as interviews. The interview was priceless.

Mercy said...

I don't really have anything to say on research, but what I'd like to see would be a novel about the Underground Railroad from the point of view of a conductor.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great interview. It's so interesting hearing how Ruta delved deeper into the history behind the story. It must have been hard not including those stories she had to cut.

GothMisfitjazz said...

you can when authors research the topics they're writing about. You can really tell the difference between extensive research, reading, interviewing.
I would love to read a Ya book on Anne Boleyn but I would highly doubt that would come true.
enter me please

Melissa/welachild said...

When an author has researched a time period or place well, the setting often becomes a character in itself. I like it when that happens.
I would love to read a book set in Troy during the Trojan War.

Katie said...

great interview i like historical fiction because a lot of the authors have to research and the readers always learn something about the time period.

katie_tp(at)yahoo(dot)com

~Enamored Soul~ said...

In a good historical fiction novel, you can always tell when an author has done his/her research extensively. With fiction, you can sometimes take a few liberties and embellish the facts, however, a historical fiction novel that adheres to the facts YET manages to convey the story is a gem of a historical fiction piece.

I am not a writer of historical fiction, but as a reader, I would LOVE to read more books on the women of Ancient Greece. Books, plays, anything written about that era is so entirely male dominated (with the exception of Antigone, perhaps). Also, I believe that there are not enough books on the history of Africa. Most historical fiction novels based in Africa tell of the ancient and far off history such as Cleopatra, Sheba, King Tut etc, but not enough authors speak of how Africa came to be the biggest continent with widespread civil unrest. I think that is an aspect of history that could be explored further.

Thank you so much for showcasing "Between Shades of Grey" for us - I am really looking forward to reading it.

P.S... I still cannot get over Irena's anguish when she spoke of seeing her father for the last time at the train station. :(

Email: Enamoredsoul(at)gmail(dot)com
Twitter: @inluvwithbookz

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see more American immigrant historical novels :)

Anonymous said...

Nike Free 3.0 shoes online,
Nike Free 3.0 Mens shoes for runner,
Nike Free 3.0 V2 Mens new style running shoes,
Nike Free 3.0 V3 Mens running shoes free run series,
Nike Free 3.0 black Mens running shoes light weight,
Nike Free 3.0 grey shoes for sale,
Nike Free run 2 mens shoes new style,
Nike Free run 3.0 womens shoes for sale online,
Nike Free run womens sale for runner,
Nike Free 3.0 blue shoes sale.


Nike Free run 3.0 shoes online,
Nike Free 3.0 Mens sale shoes for runner,
Nike Free 3.0 V2 Mens new style running shoes,
Nike Free 3.0 V3 Mens running shoes free run series,
Nike Free 3.0 black Mens shoes for sale,
Nike Free 3.0 grey shoes new style,
Nike Free run 2 mens shoes for sale,
Nike Free run 3.0 womens shoes for sale online,
Nike Free run womens sale shoes sale.
Nike Free 3.0 blue for runner,