Q&A with Author Ruta Sepetys

To say that I am over the moon excited about this post would be an understatement. There are so many benefits to joining the Bookstagram community one of which is being exposed to different authors. Early on in my Bookstagram journey I saw this gorgeous cover floating around between bookworms. I was so transfixed on the cover and after reading everyone's poignant captions about how this story tugged on their every heartstring, I read the synopsis and knew this book was a must read. That book was 'Salt to the Sea' by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea is categorized in the YA Fiction genre. However, this book is without traditional YA tropes and is written so brilliantly from the POV of the four main characters. Sepetys delicately layers every detail of this story which reels the reader into every emotion of the character and their development. Grab your tissue! Sepetys crafts a fictional story around a real life rarely discussed historical tragedy, the bombing and sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military ship that was to take East Prussia refugees to freedom and salvation at the closing of World War II. Sepetys' self proclaimed title of  'Seeker of Lost Stories' is well deserved as she also tackled a fictional tale around another historical event when the Soviet's invaded Lithuania in 'Between Shades of Gray'.  I've read all three of her books including 'Out of the Easy', but 'Salt to the Sea' is one of my favorite reads of 2016. You can read my review of 'Salt to the Sea' here


Sepetys is a captivating storyteller and I am bubbling because she took time out of her very busy schedule to chit chat with me for therusticwindow.com. We'll take a look at her writing process, what she's reading and the best advice for any aspiring authors!!

TRW: With Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea how have you mastered writing historical fiction to appeal to young readers? 

Sepetys: In order for history to appeal to readers, it has to feel human. I try to create characters who feel real, people that the reader cares about. If the reader cares about the characters, they will take the journey with them. 

TRW: How or did your family history play a role in creating Salt to the Sea? Research.

Sepetys: My own family history plays only a small role in Salt to the Sea. My father's cousin had confirmed passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff. But the day of the voyage, she was unable to board the ship. She is the one who shared the story with me and encouraged me to write about it. 

TRW: Which Salt to the Sea character do you relate to the most? Why? 

Sepetys: I probably relate to Emilia the most. She sees life through nature and has more of an inner emotional landscape than an exterior one. 

TRW: What is your writing process?

Sepetys: It's more of a "mindfulness" than a "process." I take long walks and I think about the characters, visualize them. I create scenes in my mind (like I'm watching a movie) and then I write detailed notes in a journal. There is a lot of thinking and imagining before the writing begins.

TRW: What are some of your favorite books or books that inspired you? 

Sepetys: I love "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. As a prisoner in a concentration camp, Frankl realized that although much can be taken from us, we alone choose our attitude. It's a powerful and inspiring book. 

TRW: What can bookworms expect from you next? 

Sepetys: I'm hard at work on a new novel! It's set in Spain in the 1950's and will introduce readers to the hope and heartbreak during the Franco dictatorship. 

TRW: Advice for aspiring authors. 

Sepetys: Read lots of novels. Good writers are good readers. Consider joining a critique group and sharing your work with others. Having several people read your work and give you feedback can be very helpful. For writers who are struggling to find inspiration, I suggest they think back on their own experiences of love, loss, joy and humiliation. Those triumphs and scars are part of our individual emotional truth and if write about them—and through them—the work will have a feeling of authenticity. 

Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys

What determines how we remember history and which elements are preserved and penetrate the collective consciousness? If historical novels stir your interest, pursue the facts, history, memories, and personal testimonies available. These are the shoulders that historical fiction sits upon. When the survivors are gone we must not let the truth disappear with them. Please, give them a voice.”
― Ruta Sepetys, Salt to the Sea