Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ruta Sepetys: All About BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY

The very first thing I wanted to ask Ruta about was her fabulous book! So today's questions are all about BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY.

Can you give us a brief summary of your novel?

The book is about Lina, a fifteen-year-old girl who is deported from Lithuania to Siberia. The story chronicles not only Lina’s fight for survival, but also her struggle to retain faith in mankind amidst Stalin’s terror. It explores the mysteries of hope and courage and also the miraculous power of the human spirit.

What made you want to write this novel?

When I was in Lithuania meeting with family members they told me that they had burned all of the photos of my family, because they couldn’t let anyone know they were related to my grandfather. So many people in the Baltics had experienced the terror of Stalin but had never spoken of it for fear of the consequences. The stories of Soviet occupation and Stalin are rarely discussed. And it occurred to me, there are so many heroes that we’ve never had the chance to meet or hear about. We’ve never been able to celebrate their bravery or console their regret. They’re nameless and faceless. So I was inspired to write the book to honor the many people who were deported to Siberia by Stalin.

Why did you choose to make it YA instead of an adult novel?

A few reasons. First, I love YA books! Also, many of the survivors I met were young when they were deported and I was very affected by the things they told me they experienced during their teen years in Siberia. I hoped that making the main character a young girl might add additional dimension to the story. Also, since this is a very little known piece of history, I hoped the book might make its way to teachers and librarians.

This book seems as if it will be very emotional—not only because of the subject matter, but also because of how close you were to the story. Was there a part that was particularly hard for you to write?

Many parts were difficult to write because the cruelty I was describing was just unfathomable. There is a particular event with the mother in the book, Elena. It just destroyed me and I had to take a break for a few days after I wrote that chapter.

Thanks for telling us about the originations of BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, Ruta!

Between Shades of Gray Prize Pack:
Signed bookplate
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: Have you read BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY yet? Care to share some (non-spoilery) thoughts?

Question 2: Ruta found the inspiration for BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY in her own family history. Is there an aspect of your family's history you'd like to explore more?
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