MFT Guest: Interview with Ruta Sepetys and Giveaway of Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray was one of those books I fell in love with immediately.  Asking Ruta to be on for My Favorite Things was my first thought once I finished the book because I just want everyone to read it.  It’s so amazing that I actually tear up every time I even think about the book.  
I was lucky enough to have Ruta say yes to an interview even with her busy schedule.  I have to admit this was one author I felt very fan-girly about and if I saw her in person I’d probably be speechless.  This is a book everyone needs to read and should be in all school libraries.  Okay, so I could talk about the awesomeness that is this book all day but lets just get to it already!
The description of Between Shades of Gray:
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages 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, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Between Shades of Gray is wrought with emotion. How were you able to get through day after day of learning about these horrific things and then to create a story from it? It seems like it would begin to wear on a person a bit. But then I can see how a need to get the story out may take over and make it all possible. Can you share with us how you managed?

Yes, writing certain sections of the novel put me through the wringer emotionally. I constantly questioned how people could be capable of such cruelty. At points, I stepped away from the book to give myself a break or skipped scenes and moved on to work on other sections. Alternating writing hopeful chapters helped balance the horror in the process.

I think as a reader that the balance was quite good.  Things would be looking so horrific but the smallest little glimmer of hope or positive thing happening helped balance it.  I think I would definitely have a hard time writing it though.

What portion of Between Shades of Gray did you find the most challenging to write? And what was your method to get through it?

Several sections were challenging, but one in particular was a scene with the mother character, Elena. I don’t want to give anything away, but it was a difficult scene to write and I avoided it for weeks. Instead of working on it I’d think about the scene and how I might feel if I were amidst it observing the situation as Lina. 

That would have probably been the hardest part for me as well.    

Between Shades of Gray is really a small part of Lina’s time in the Arctic. Why did you choose to write just that portion? And do you think that we may see more of Lina in the future?

I thought that writing about the beginning of the journey would set the scene and allow readers to perhaps imagine what the rest of her time in the Arctic, and her life, might be like. In terms of writing more about Lina, I’ve had so many lovely requests to somehow continue the story. Maybe somewhere down the road I’ll do that.

I do hope that you continue her story!  I would love to see more of Lina’s story.

What I Was: A Novel
What is one book you find yourself recommending quite often?

“What I Was” by Meg Rosoff. I loved it!

If you could have one super power what would it be?

The ability to create time to write whenever and wherever I wanted. I’d snap my fingers and say “Five hours of writing time on the beach now!” and I’d be there. Wouldn’t that be dreamy?

That would be nice!

What can we expect to see from you in the future? Anything in the works that your allowed to share?

I’m currently working on another historical fiction novel for my publisher. The new book is set in New Orleans in the 1950’s and I’m having so much fun working on it!

Any book set in New Orleans sounds great, but the 1950’s sounds like an excellent time period to read about!  I can’t wait!

Thank you SO much for your time! I really do appreciate you doing this interview. I think this is a story that’s really important to share and pass on and encourage people to read. An interview will hopefully encourage a bit more interest.

Thank you so much, Candace, for having me here on your blog!

Between Shades of Gray website:

Video with Ruta about Between Shades of Gray and how it came to be, etc. (Grab kleenex first!)

The Giveaway: *Ended*
Penguin has provided me with a copy of the book to giveaway to one lucky person!  
Open to US/Canada only
Must be 13 or older
Ends July 5th, 2011

To Enter: *This Giveaway is Closed*
Leave a comment telling us a book that you read that you felt was extremely emotional, that really touched you and makes you tear up just thinking about it.  Leave contact info!

Thanks for subscribing!


  1. I’ve heard such good things about this book, I need to pick it up soon! If I Stay by Gayle Forman was a really sad, but I loved it :) I cry for like almost every book I read lol, but I’ve had a non crying streak for a while so I’m pretty proud of myself :)

  2. I read Between Shade of Gray on an ARC tour and it had me so emotional! The only other book that ever made me feel so emotional was Night by Elie Weisel. I would love to win a copy of Between Shades of Gray as I thought it was an AMAZING book!

    Great interview! I’m looking forward to the next book set in New Orleans!


  3. On the Jellicoe Road made me cry terribly– though there were definitely happy parts in the book as well. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince definitely made me bawl as well, due to a certain wizard’s unexpected death.

    This book sounds fantastic and unlike anything else I’ve read. Thanks for the chance to win!

  4. I read this book courtesy of another giveaway. I think the scene with Elena was the part that had me flat-out crying. So difficult to read. The heart-wrenching part was when Lina was forced to leave the first camp with a special stone in her pocket. Lovely interview!

  5. I haven’t read any books similar to this, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows had me bawling for a long time while I read the book and after. I’m going to be a wreck when the last movie comes out, too.

    I’d love to read Between Shades of Gray. Thank you so much for this opportunity!


  6. I saw this book the other day at the bookstore, and after reading your post I really want to try it. For me, the best stories are those that make you cry, and hopefully can smile afterwards. I’ve read many books that I connected with emotionally, the latest being Night Road by Kristin Hannah. Souvernir by Therese Fowler had some emotional moments it in, particular towards the end.


  7. I don’t want to be entered into this giveaway, since I already have a copy on my shelf. But I have to say that this interview, and especially that video has moved it’s place on my to-read shelf up closer to the top. I was on the verge of tears the whole time watching that video. Ruta said some beautiful things towards the end – and they are totally true. Thank you for this feature.


  8. Great interview and video! The only book that has ever consistently made me cry is Kira, Kira by Cynthia Kadohata. Every time I read it, I cry when the main character’s sister dies of leukemia, though I haven’t figured out yet why it always affects me so much.

    susanna DOT pyatt AT student DOT rcsnc DOT org

  9. I have heard great things about this book.. I”m really interested in reading it. :)

    The most recent emotional book I read was forbidden by tabitha Suzuma. That book broke my heart.. Never has a book changed how I feel about a taboo subject, like that one did. I highly recommend it to everyone. :)

  10. I’ve been wanting to read this one! I think my emotional go to book would be The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton or That was Then, This is Now also by S.E. Hinton. The point in my life when I read this books just really hit home for me..

  11. Actually the saddest book I have read deals with the same situation as Between Shades of Grey. It is The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin by Adam Hochschild. I cried so hard when reading this. It is a nonfiction book, Hochschild went to Russia and the things he found out from people who were actually there and what he sees, really grabbed me. I read it a few years ago and the book has still stuck with me. It sounds like this book will put me through the wringer as well, but it sounds worth. Great interview and giveaway guys :)

    drharleyquinn87 (at) gmail (dot) com

  12. I read one book that kind of struck me to the core once. It was called Waterland by Graham didn’t make me cry but it was tragic and amazing…the only two books that have ever made me cry was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Under the Jolly Roger by L.A. Meyer

  13. I love the super power you picked :) I read a lot of books by Jodie Picoult, many of her books really stick with me. Thank you so much for the giveaway! edysicecreamlover18ATgmailDOTcom GFC Krystal Larson

  14. This book really was fantastic. There are not enough books about what happened in the Baltic States under Stalin and others in the USSR. So, I’d say that this book was one that definitely stuck with me emotionally.

  15. I have to say just reading the synopsis of this book took my breath away, let alone the wonderful interview. Thank you so much for sharing and the opportunity to win what sounds like a wonderful book. I have just recently finished Megan’s Way by Melissa Foster and have to say it was pretty incredible.


  16. One of the only books I can remember crying over is Charly by Jack Weylend. Kind of cheesy, but such a moving story.

    arallison at gmail dot com

  17. Megan’s Way was an extremly emotional read for me. A mother dying of cancer didn’t want to get too close to her daughter because she didn’t want her to feel so much pain when she died. I was crying constantly without out the book and feel that all people who have kids and a terminal illness should read this book for perspective on their children’s needs.


  18. The Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings was pretty emotional for me because it dealt with a group of boys who accidently killed someone and they are torn by the guilt.
    Thanks so much for this giveaway! I’ve really been wanting to read this book!

  19. This was such an amazing book. After I reviewed it for my blog I bought a copy for my house and two for my classroom (so I don’t need it). I just wanted to say that it is one that will stick with me for a long time. I teach the Holocaust every year with Anne Frank and some others, but now my shelf will have this amazing novel on it and we will be using it! Good luck to everyone who enters and if you don’t win… GO BUY IT!!


  20. Just like Jennie, I’ve already read this, so don’t enter me in the contest. I just wanted to say how AMAZING this book is. I’ve read a ton of Holocaust books and war books and let me tell you, this one is one of my top five best reads. It was riveting, breath-taking, all the gorgeous bookish words you can think of!

    <3 Miss Lauren

  21. I have had this book on my wish list for far too long. I have seen so many wonderful things about it. A book that made me emotional was Dance With The Devil by Dave Bagby. It was very hard to read. There is also a documentary based on this story called Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. Extremely heart breaking. I have to hold in the tears when I think of them.


  22. I have been wanting to read this book for a long time. It sounds like one of those books that just touches your soul. A book that will always be emotional for me is A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin.
    Thanks for the interview and giveaway

  23. Oh wow. That’s hard. I don’t really cry a lot at books — but OMG Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? The scene in the woods near the end with his family? I CRY EVERY TIME.

    thebookishtypereviews AT gmail DOT com

  24. Thanks so much for the giveaway! Usually I don’t like to read books that make me cry but if I hear they’re really good I have to read them! I’ve heard so many great things about this book and that if you read it your pretty much guaranteed to cry. I know it’s probably every one’s book but If I Stay by Gayle Forman was a tear jerker for me. It was sad but really good. I cannot wait to read this book!

  25. The last book I read that made me truly hurt and cry was If I Stay by Gayle Forman. That book had me bawling. I do have to admit as well that the first time I watched the video Ruta did about this book I cried, which was a tad embarrassing at work. I’ve been dying to read this book, but every time I check it out from the library, I have to return it without reading b/c someone else has it on hold!

    readinginthecorner11 (at) gmail (dot) com

  26. This book is on my to 101 in 1001 reading challenge but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to have the chance to read so thank you for the opportunity.

    The book that I can recall having the most emotional impact was My Sister’s Keeper which the ending is completely different for the movie-watchers and it was gutwrenching.

    withinpages @ hotmail dot com

  27. I cried so much during Paula by Isabel Allende, it’s a beautiful memoir written in two parts to her daughter, one part while she was in coma and the second after her death. Very beautiful and very sad.


  28. -I don’t really cry while reading a book, nor does one make me. The only book I cried for would be Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. It was just such a raw novel and went into details. Alice {which was not her real name} went through a lot, and it was just so sad to witness and read what happened.


  29. I’m a total baby… I cry all the time during sad books. 😛

    A book that makes me cry (HARD) every single time I read it is Where the Red Fern Grows. It’s been a favorite since childhood & I’ve read it so many times!

    My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult also gets me.

    I’ve been wanting to read this book for SO long! SO excited to see a giveaway for it! Fingers crossed! :)

    basicallyamazingbooks [at]

  30. I’m a little amazed that I still haven’t read Between Shades of Grey yet because I’ve wanted to for a while. The book sounds so emotional and important. I WILL read it eventually….and I’ve added What I Was on my Goodreads because that one sounds really good as well.

    As for a book that was extremely emotional for me, I’d say Before I Die by Jenny Downham. I have never, ever cried so much reading a book as I did when I read that. The last 50 pages or so left me a blubbering mess.

    Great interview, as always, and thank you for the giveaway :)

  31. I forgot to point out: the video that’s posted isn’t the one of Ruta discussing the book (the long one that makes me cry). Your codes must have gotten mixed up because it’s the trailer for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

  32. I rarely cry…ok maybe a bit. Or a few tears just happen to fall during an emotional passage. One of the books happen to be The Devil’s Arithmetic, which I read to wrap up my holocaust unit. I think my emotional barrier just broke down when I finished it and I couldn’t stop crying. Ten years later and I can’t read it without crying.
    I read Between Shades of Grey from my library but I would love a copy.
    If only I had the power to write whenever I want to…
    Yay for Penguin!

    Lindadao2060 at yahoo dot com

  33. one book that i read was savage surrender by natasha peters. i cried so much through the book. it was so sad and so good! i read this book years ago and its the one book that i can remember every minute detail about. it was a one time read but ill never get rid of this book. thank you for the giveaway!

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