Please welcome Ruta Sepetys, author of Between Shades of Gray, to Fiction Folio! After reading this phenomenal book, I had to learn more about the author and the amazing story and have the chance to share it with all of you.
1) When writing Between Shades of Gray, did you associate certain aspects of the story with music? If so, what were the songs or genres you chose?
RS – Although I don’t listen to music while I write, I am very conscious of the rhythm and structure of a song and perhaps that has leaked into my writing a bit? Hans Christian Andersen said, “Where words fail, music speaks.” It’s so true. I’ve been fortunate to work in the music business for twenty years and when I love a song I am fulfilled in an indescribable way. Between Shades of Gray definitely calls for music on the melancholy side. I contacted one of my favorite recording artists, Gavin Mikhail, and asked him to create a piano soundtrack for the book. It was such fun! We chose certain characters and scenes and Gavin composed music around them. We’ve printed download cards (sort of like a Starbucks download card). They have a code on the back that allows you to download the album for free from my site. They look like this:
2) Part of your research for the book included a simulation of being locked up in a former Soviet prison. Can you share that experience with us?
RS – I had the opportunity to take part in a simulation experience in a former Soviet prison in Eastern Europe. I jumped at the chance, as the father in my story is sent to prison and I wanted to learn more about the prison environment. And boy, did I learn. I have to note that a simulation experience could never, ever come close to what the actual prisoners went through. It would be disrespectful for me to compare my experience with theirs, however, I was in the prison less than 48 hours and in that short time I learned that I am a coward and probably never would have survived in Siberia. I think we all want to believe that we will be noble and courageous in the face of adversity. I wasn’t. And that’s a hard thing to learn about yourself.
3) Has anyone in your family read Between Shades of Gray? What were their reactions, especially since the story is based on some of their actual experiences?
RS – Everyone in my family has read the book and they’ve all been very supportive. My father fled from Stalin as a child so many of the characters and experiences I describe in the book are more than familiar to him. I dedicated the book to my grandfather, Jonas Sepetys. I wish he were still alive to read it.
4) What has been your favorite aspect of being a published author?
RS – Being part of a community of writers and readers! I have met so many kindred spirits.
5) Your bio says that you wanted to marry Roald Dahl when you were younger. What is your favorite book of his?
RS – Yes, I was quite the Roald Dahl fan! I really loved and related to lonely characters like Charlie Bucket and James Trotter. When I first read James and the Giant Peach as a child I was completely mesmerized. The version I had was illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert and I adored her art. I used to sit with a flashlight under the covers and stare at her illustrations, whispering to James and cursing Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge. I recently had lunch with several librarians and they told me that my hero, Mr. Dahl, was not a very nice man. I was crushed to hear that!
This was the version of James and the Giant Peach that I had.
I love this illustration of little James and the peach!
6) Do you have any other novels in the works that you would like to share?
RS – I’m working on another historical novel for my publisher, Philomel. It’s set in New Orleans in the ‘50’s and I’ve been having a fantastic time doing research!
7) Anything else you would like to share with readers?
RS – There are so many great books coming out this year! “Dead Rules” by Randy Russell, “The Fourth Stall” by Chris Rylander, “Across the Universe” by Beth Revis, “Vanished” by Sheela Chari, I could go on and on. Check out the Elevensies site for more information:
My links are listed below in the event your readers want to follow my crazy escapades!
Many thanks to Ruta Sepetys for participating in this interview! Be sure to check her out at the links above and definitely watch the video on the book’s website – it is incredibly moving. You can also check out my review of Between Shades of Gray here.
Because I enjoyed this book so much, I want to give someone else the opportunity to read it as well. In addition to giving away my ARC, Ruta was kind enough to pitch in some fantastic swag!!
ARC, keychain, signed bookplate, bookmarks, and a free music album download
To enter, please fill out the short form below. Following my blog is not necessary and don’t forget to check out my full contest rules before you enter.
-Open to US residents only (sorry international peeps!)
-Winner will have 48 hours to respond before I choose a new winner
-Contest ends at midnight CST on March 19