Ruta Sepetys is an internationally acclaimed author of historical fiction published in over fifty countries and thirty-six languages. All of her novels have been bestsellers and she has one numerous awards.
Ruta is the daughter of refugees. Her father fled Lithuania and spent 9 years in refugee camps. When the Lithuanian police came looking for her father and didn't find him, they arrested 12 family members and only one of them survived.
Kids are deep thinkers and deep feelers and the books we read as kids have the potential to make a profound effect on them. Ruta thought if she could write a story about this piece of hidden history, those readers could be the "lamplighters for truth and hope and change."
Ruta had the challenge of interviewing people who wanted and needed to remain anonymous. She said, "There's tension that exists between history and memory. There are things we want to cling to and remember and things we want to forget." From interviews Ruta wove many people into one character to hopefully capture an experience of many.
With emotion, Ruta said as writers we should go there. Emotionally we need to get in the trenches. "If I feel devastated that means I have loved...If I'm putting all this emotion in, then I hope readers will feel it too."
Ruta finds that in her editorial process she must amplify the hope and ask, where is the hope in the hardship?
Teens don't find her books, they don't go looking for a book about a Lithuanian girls starving in a Siberian refugee camp. Teachers and librarians bring kids to the books. There are now even BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY school travel tours inspired by the story and the history.