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?


Laurel said...

I haven't read Between Shades of Gray yet, but I wish I had! *wink, wink!*

I don't really have much of an interesting family history that I have interest in, but I have always wanted to know what it was like for my grandfather to be a preacher. Does that count? I should ask my grandfather sometime, though.

Thanks for hosting this interview! I enjoyed reading it.

Vivien said...

I haven't had a chance to read Between Shades of Gray yet.

My mom's side of the family originated in Prussia. They ended up fleeing in WWII. It's a hard time to think about, but I've always wanted to research more about it.

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

Melissa/welachild said...

I think there are interesting stories to be told about every family. We just need to ask the right questions or merely take the time to listen.

Kay said...

I haven't read Shades of Gray yet, but the more I hear about it, the more I want to.
I wish I had listened more to my grandmother's stories before she died. She lived an amazing life.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I haven't read Shades of Gray. I suppose if I tried to dig deeply, I would find stories of my family in Poland and Russia. I'm sure they came here because of difficult times.

Susan Light said...

Eagerly awaiting my copy from Junior Library Guild. Cannot wait to read it this spring!

Nicole Settle said...

That's great her family history inspired the book. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Katie said...

Haven't read it yet, but I'm way excited to!

Anita Saxena said...

Wow. I couldn't imagine being a teen living through Stalin's terror. I'm so glad that you decided to share their story. Very excited about reading this book.

Jessy said...

I actually just watched a special on Ruth Gruber last night and it made be think of this book. I kept thinking I have to get started on reading a copy of BSoG.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

This is one of *the best* books I've ever read - it's brilliant, beautiful, and brutally honest. The artistic energy that Lina possesses is inspiring and I loved everything about this book!

I'm doing a lot of research on my own family history and have found so many interesting things thus far. I'm hoping to be able to catch a lucky break and find out more about the Czechoslovakian side of my family!

Christi said...

I haven't read Between Shades of Gray yet, but these posts are certainly making me wish I had!

My family's history isn't really that interesting at all, I don't think.

Becky Levine said...

This is on my list to read.

I didn't expect the historical I'm working on to lead back to my family history, but my sister and I ended up finding my grandmother's apartment during a research trip to Chicago, and the story I'm writing just has me thinking more about her and her family.

Melody said...

Haven't read it yet, but really, really want to! :)

As for my own family history, my grandmother was an army daughter who lived in Saipan and Guam soon after WW2. Intrigues me!

Count me in!

Scoot said...

I have not had a chance to read Between Shades of Gray yet but I am really looking forward to it. As for my own family history, I think it would be neat to learn more about my family that immigrated to the US from Ireland way back in the day. I am sure their lives were very different from ours now.

Sonya said...

Sounds like a truly beautiful book. Can't wait to read it!

Shari said...

I watched an interview with Ruta and was completely moved by her story. I am REALLY excited to read her book.

Angie Smibert said...

Just started it. The first line is perfect and chilling all at once. I also bought a copy for a friend's birthday.

Unknown said...

I haven't had the chance to read it yet (that's why I'm entering the giveaway :) )

I'd like to know more about my first relatives who arrived in America; they were some of the earliest settlers in piedmont NC, from the 1750s-90s.

Rachel said...

I haven't read Between Shades of Gray yet but it's on order right now!! :D I'm super excited!

History is interesting to me, but I am about 1 percent of everything, so there isn't one large part of my family's history that I can focus on. Although it would be fun to trace back the roots sometime!

(By the way, great interview!)

Liz Tea said...

I haven't had a chance to get to it yet, though I'm really looking forward to reading it. :D

There's an interesting little piece of history legend in my family on my mother's side. There's this story that one of our ancestors was a Viking pirate, and in exchange for not pillaging a village, the town leader gave him his daughter. It sounds like a good premise for a romance. ;D

lulilut said...

I haven't read it yet but it sounds like something I would enjoy.

My mother's family was coal miners. My great-grandfather died from black lung and I never knew him.
I've only been down a coal mine once and it was so un-natural and creepy; nothing like a natural formed cave. I can't imagine going to work there everyday with the threat of a cave-in.
I would love to read and know more about it.

C.R. Evers said...

sounds great! Can't wait to read it.

Awesome interview.

Minas said...

Great interview! I haven't had the chance to read Between Shades of Gray yet, but I will!


Gabi said...

I actually have a goal to compile a family history book, with pictures and stories and our family tree. I would love to know more about my Cherokee grandmother, or my family who came over from Russia (originally of Germany). Then there's the old family story about how we're related to a Scottish princess, which is cool. :]

Unknown said...

I haven't read it, but I have been dying to read it since I stumbled upon it on Goodreads. Gorgeous cover!

The Norwegian side of my family tree ends in the last 1800s, around 1880s... it's so weird. I want to learn more about that because how cool would it be to figure out who your great-great-great-great grandparents are, when all records have been lost in America? Too cool! :D

ansindt said...

Enter me pretty please=)

Anonymous said...

I love doing family genealogy; it's a giant mystery I love unfolding. I know I had a couple of family members in the Dutch resistance in WWII, one of whom threw himself over the stairs to avoid spilling secrets when captured. I can't imagine the circumstances faced at that time, and I really look forward to learning more of my family's stories.

Can't wait to read this book!

~Enamored Soul~ said...

Since I have not read "Between Shades of Grey" yet, I can only answer the second question.

My maternal family descended from the "Mughals" of South Asia (what is now India/Pakistan) - and I have been told many, many stories about them by my grandmother and my mother. When I was 10 years old, I traveled with my grandmother to visit my grandfather's grave-site in a small town called 'Dera Ismail Khan' in Northern Pakistan. When I reached the small town, I realized that the townspeople were treating my grandmother, along with me, like royalty. Wherever we went, be it to a restaurant, people would refuse to take payment from us, we had to force them to accept our money. In all honesty, I'd spent the entirety of my life in the city as a middle-class girl, and being treated like this came as a shock to me. But, I was told many amazing stories about how my grandfather's family had helped the people of that region, especially that town. And since then, it has been my dream to return to that village, and do a novel based on my grandfather's family, focusing on their interaction with the people of that area. Too bad I did not inherit any of my grandpa's regal and royal ways...lol :P

Thank you so much for sharing this amazing interview with us! :)

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

Teril said...

ohh I have not read this yet. It sounds amazing.
Please enter me.

Becky B. @ Bibliognome said...

Great Interview :)

Question 2: I would love to research my family history. Because apparently my great grandparents on my Mom's side were bootleggers during prohibition so their could be some fun stories to discover there. :)

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

I haven't read Between Shades of Gray yet, but I'm hoping to soon. As for my own family, I'm not really sure about too much of my family's history, so I'd really like to explore all of it. My nana was cut off from her family when my mother was young, so the only family I really know are the people who live right in my house. I'd love the opportunity to know more and hopefully I get to at some point in the future.

lindseybousfield said...

Please enter me!


Jamie Kline (Bookerella) said...

I have not read the book yet, but I am definitely going to, whether I win a copy or not! It really does sound amazing!! My grandmother's family moved here from Germany...in fact, just down the street from where she lived, a neighbor found a chest in their attic that belonged to either her grandfather or great-grandfather, had his name on it and everything. It's amazing stumbling across something like that and I would like to know more about what their life was like in Germany.

I really enjoyed the interview, thanks for hosting it! Keeping my fingers crossed that I win!

Amy @ www.bookgoonie.com said...

My grandmother was 1/2 Indian. I always wanted to do more research into her and that branch of my family. Amy @ bookgoonie at yahoo

Z. Taco said...

Haven't read Between Shades of Gray, but I can't wait to do so!

I'm curious to know more of my family's ancestry. We have a Hindu royal last name, but we've followed the religion of Islam as far as I can trace back. I'm curious to know where and how the two converge.

jpetroroy said...

I did read it and ADORED it. So sad, spare, and poignant.

GothMisfitjazz said...

I really enjoyed the interview, thanks for hosting it!

Katie said...

i really liked the interview especially her answer on why she decided to make it a YA novel


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