We have Ruta Sepetys on 88 Cups of Tea this week! Ruta is a New York Times bestseller and a Carnegie Medal winning crossover author whose critically acclaimed novels are read by both teens and adults. Ruta was awarded The Rockefeller Foundation’s prestigious Bellagio Center writing residency for her historical novel “Salt to the Sea”. The feature film adaptations of “Salt to the Sea” and her debut “Between Shades of Gray” are also on their way to theaters.
In our conversation, we talk about the real-life details that inspired “Salt to the Sea” and Ruta’s emotional process while writing the novel. We walk through a massive deep-dive of her research process, and she shares tips on interviewing techniques along with advice on how to respectfully approach people to interview for your own novels.
For our craft-focused listeners, you’re going to love our discussion about writing from multiple POVs and how to master each voice. Along that same topic, Ruta shares why it’s important for listeners to not shy away from writing dark and emotional POVs. We also touch on how she writes emotionally challenging characters.
Further into our conversation, we cover the role of rejection and how failure helps to set us up for future success, and how admitting your fears can help you move beyond them.
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“Failure is a prerequisite to success.”
“We take many different roads to reach a destination.”
“Listening is an act of love.”
“Without readers, the story still remains on the shelf.”
“When suffering and struggle are recognized, sometimes we can take a step towards restoring human dignity.”
What You’ll Learn From This Episode:
- How Ruta uncovered the hidden real-life events that inspired “Salt to the Sea”
- Learn about the importance of author-reader relationships in the literary community
- We learn the details of Ruta’s research process
- Advice on how to research a historical fiction
- How to respectfully approach people for an interview for your story
- Interviewing techniques for researching your novel
- Tips on ways to find people to interview for your book
- Advice on writing from multiple POVs
- How to master alternate point of view for your writing
- Why you should write dark and emotional POVs
- How to write emotionally challenging characters
- The role of rejection and how failure helps to set us up for future success
- How admitting your fears can help you move beyond them
About Salt to the Sea
It’s 1945 in East Prussia. World War II is drawing to a close as Russian forces overtake the Germans, and thousands of refugees are on a frantic trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among the throngs of people seeking safety are Joana, Emilia, Florian, and Alfred: each one borne of a different homeland, yet equally desperate to escape a life marked by brutality and war.
Told in alternating points of view, the story chronicles their journeys as their paths converge en route to the Wilhelm Gustloff: the former cruise ship that promises each character’s salvation and future just beyond the Baltic Sea. The three are forced by circumstance to unite, and with each step closer toward safety, their strength, courage, and trust in each other are tested. Yet just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, Russian torpedoes strike the massive ship. Neither country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
Learn More About Ruta Sepetys
The daughter of a refugee, Ruta was born and raised in Michigan and is now a longtime resident of Nashville. Sepetys is considered a crossover author; her critically acclaimed novels Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy are read by both students and adults. Ruta is a New York Times bestseller, a two-time Carnegie Medal nominee, and is currently published across forty-five countries and thirty-three languages. Her debut novel Between Shades of Gray was a New York Times bestseller and received widespread acclaim. It was a New York Times Notable Book of 2011 and appeared on the Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus and iTunes Best Book of the Year lists. Between Shades of Gray is now headed to the big screen in a feature film entitled Ashes in the Snow, starring Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl) and directed by Marius Markevicius. In 2015, Ruta was awarded The Rockefeller Foundation’s prestigious Bellagio Center writing residency based on her forthcoming historical novel Salt to the Sea.
Books & Resources Mentioned in Ruta’s Episode:
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg
Tell the Truth. Make It Matter: A memoir writing workbook by Beth Kephart
Four Letters of Love by Niall Williams
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl