This past Wednesday I got to meet and talk to one of my favorite authors, the lovely Ruta Sepetys. Her fictional historic novels always leaves me emotionell and with a urge to learn more about the subject. It doesn’t matter if it’s about the Soviet work camps during the First World War or the country East Prussian.
So to get the chance to actually meet her in person and talk to her face-to-face was such a huge thing for me, and something I never would have expected would ever happen.
We meet at this café called Lilla Kafferosteriet in Malmö, and it was the perfect place for a nice chat. The weather was a you would expect in Fall, cold and rainy so sitting in this old house with live candles really was the perfect detail.
First impression of a person is a big indicator about what kind of person they are, and I can now tell you all that Ruta is the sweetest person ever. From the moment we we’re introduced I just got these got vibes of her, which is amazing since there’s nothing worse than admiring a person’s work and then discover that they are a huge jerk. But so was it not here, not even a tiny smudge of it.
We started with just casually chating about ourselves, getting to know each other a little bit better. The first thing she told me was that she has a tree-house! That make her like 10% cooler than she already was. Then we started with the ‘official’ interview even though it was more like a casual chat with questions here and there and a lot of random topics. The best thing with unscripted things like this is that you get to know so much more random things than with hundreds of questions.
Firstly I had to ask her if she already thought about the Salt of the Sea story and Joana as the main character back when she first wrote Between Shades of Grey. You may ask yourself, why? How is these two related? Well Joana is actually the cousin of Lina, the main character in between Shades of Grey, and is mentioned in the book.
As it turns out this wasn’t something that Ruta had planed, but as the fans told her that they would love to read more of these characters, so when she researched for Salt to the Sea the idea hit her. She had already decided that she wanted one of the main characters in that book to a Lithuanian nurse, and as Lina’s cousin studied medicine it was the perfect opportunity to make everyone happy. But as she said “If you haven’t read Between Shades of Grey you doesn’t make the connection. So it’s like a Easter egg for those who have read it“. You should have seen her reaction when I brought up the connection, it was pure excitement. Many people may have missed that the two books is related since they was never described as a companion novel or a sequel. So only sharp eyed readers like yours truly connected the dot.
Speaking of Ruta and Easter Eggs, she really enjoy to put them in there. All from an old joke with her friend from college, to references to Edward Munch works in Between Shades of Grey (bet you didn’t notice that in there). Then I heard about it the overachiever in me wanted to just go home and find them all in the book, just like I strive after every achievement in Stardew Valley. So it’s a good thing that I don’t own a X-Box or else I would be glued to my TV 24/7 to get them (gotta catch ’em all).
One of my favorite characters in Salt to the Sea is young Klaus, and if there’s one character I wanted to found out more about it’s him. Because we doesn’t really know anything else about him than his name, and every identity he had was lost with the Shoe Poet. Turns out that originally Klaus was meant to drown with his Opa, “The Shoe Poet was meant to hold the boy since he thought it’ll keep him safe. […] But my publisher said to me that I couldn’t kill the him“. Thank you publisher, because I don’t think I could handle any more kid deaths after Ingrid. But as it happens to be, that to write a death is just as harrowing as reading it. She shared the story that way back in the days when she wrote Between Shades of Grey, she cried so much that her husband came running into the room… and then took a photo of her. Guys…
This originated from my question if she had any plans to write more books with these characters. Like I would love to read more about Klaus and Halinka, how they handle their backgrounds and everything. Ruta was actually very on board with that as she loves these characters, so perhaps sometime in the future we get third book in this shared book universe. But even if that may not happen, there’s still so many stories from Salt to the Sea that can be told, so we might get a novel collection about Ingrid, Klaus, Shoe Poet et.c. backgrounds, which would be so awesome!
We may also revisit Josie and her world from Out of the Easy, for also here Ruta feels like there’s more stories to tell. All of this made me very happy, I love these characters and every story expanding their stories I’m all for.
Ruta has written three amazing books, but when I asked if there was any book she wished that had wrote she just took a breath and of she go. Some my readers might know is Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, and Anthony Doerrs The Lights We Cannot See. When talking about the last one she said “It‘s just amazing. It was like I could actually feel the sand though my fingers, just like the main character“.
She also mentioned The Appletree by Daphne Du Maurier, and her horror/thriller classic Rebecca. She told me that it’s amazing how thriller and horror authors manages to scare people only with words. Because if you watch a movie or a TV-series you can physically see the scary thing, but when it comes to the written word only the reader can visualizing the scary thing. So if you happens to run into a historic thriller by Ruta Sepetys in a few years time you shouldn’t be surprised.
Life may not take you where you expected to be but it in the end it’s still the right place (something I know very well). Ruta was like inches away from becoming famous for a humorous middle graders book, like she had been offered deals and everything. But she was told that she had a talent for historical fiction and that’s the thing she should write about. That with her rich background with featuring mostly unheard stories and underdogish historical event, that was her thing. I think that we all is very happy that she decided to follow that advice, or else I wouldn’t have known about so many historical stories that school never covers. So who knows where one may end up eventually?
Lastly I had to just ask her which was her Hogwarts House, a little bit odd I know but I was just really curious. Turns out she’s happy and proud Hufflepuff, and just as big Potterhead as myself.
Ruta was just super lovely and I’m glad that she was the first person I’ve interviewed. Like I couldn’t have asked for a better one, and just such a fun person to be with. I would love to someday meet her again, just to have another chat.
So be sure to check out Salt to Sea, and then just read Between Shades of Grey and Out of the Easy. You won’t be disappointing I can promise you that.
I would like to thank Jenny Zunko and Lotta Severin at B. Wahlströms Publisher for giving me the chance to do this interview, and to Ruta for taking time in her tour schedule to hang out with me for an hour.