Friday, February 25, 2011

Fun Friday: Interview with New Author Ruta Sepetys!

Tip of the Day: Ruta's novel was one of my top three books that I read in 2010.

From the official book website:
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.

Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive.

It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.

I was lucky enough to attend the 2010 YALSA Symposium this past November where I scored not only an ARC of BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, but also face time with the author, Ruta Sepetys. Later that weekend, I attended her session on historical fiction and wow, she is a compelling storyteller in person and on paper. (Check out her cool website here. A fascinating video interview with Ruta about her research in Lithuania is available!)

Ruta was also lovely enough to let me interview her for A2A. Welcome Ruta!

1. When did you start writing novels with the hopes of one day having one published?
RS: I wrote my first novel in 2005. It was a humorous middle-grade mystery. Unfortunately, I was the only one who thought it was funny so now it's in a box in the attic!

2. What was your first paid writing gig?
RS: When I was eight I entered a contest to write a birthday message to the Jolly Green Giant. I won and received a set of plastic Green Giant mugs. I was over the moon and thought that was a very handsome payment!

After the Green Giant bonanza I didn't get another paid writing gig until Philomel bought Between Shades of Gray. So I had a thirty year dry spell.

3. Did you have an agent when you sold your novel?
RS: Actually, Lindsay Davis at Writers House began working with me when I only had a synopsis and ten pages of Between Shades of Gray. She was such a champion for the book and I am so grateful. I wrote the novel and then revised many times for her before she shopped and sold it. She was an incredible agent and much of the novel was based and revised on her initial input. She left the business shortly after the book sold and we all miss her terribly!

3a. Can you tell us a little about how the sale went down?
RS: I went through eight rounds of revision with my agent before she shopped the novel. The initial submissions went out in July and we received a dozen rejections. Most of the comments were that the book was simply too sad and the events too horrific and dark. And then in October, suddenly three publishers wanted the book and it ended up going to auction. It was incredibly exciting! I couldn't sleep for days.

4. How has your writing/writing process changed since selling your first novel?
RS: The main change would be that now I am working with an editor and that has been an incredible experience. My editor, Tamra Tuller, is beyond talented and insightful. She helped me step outside of the story and shape the book into something I would not have been able to do on my own. We're now working on my second novel for Philomel and Tamra gave me a revision suggestion for a scene that was so fantastic it blew my mind. What hasn't changed about my writing process is that I still run all my drafts by my writing group first. We've been together over five years and they're all much better writers than me. I'm very lucky!

4a. How about since it hit the shelves?
RS: The book hits the shelves on March 22nd and I don't imagine anything will change. I'll still work 50 hours per week at my day job and then write as much as I can in-between.

Bonus: What are you working on next?
RS: Philomel just bought my next book. It's set in New Orleans in the 1950's and is in the spirit of Good Will Hunting meets What I Saw and How I Lied. I'm so excited about it!

RS: Thank you so much for having me here at Author2Author!! I post updates and news on my website and Facebook page so please join me there as well!

Thank YOU, Ruta, for bringing this incredible story to the world.

Readers, make sure you pick of SHADES OF GRAY on March 22nd!
Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing


Liana said...

awesome interview!

Andrea Mack said...

Wow - this sounds like great book. I wish it was out already! My daughter needs to read a novel relating to any of the wars for grade 10 English, and this one sounds like it would be a great read for her. We'll look for it!

DeenaML said...

Thanks Liana and Andrea, for reading! I wish this book was out now, too, and think it would make a great school read to study up on 20th c. world history.

Lisa said...

Sounds like a great book. I love the "dry spell" between paid gigs - never give up, HA!

Kate Fall said...

I'm really looking forward to this one. It sounds very Book Thief-like but with an outdoor extreme survival twist. Thanks for the interview!