Between Shades of Gray Blog Tour

Welcome! To the very first blog tour I have ever organized! I am so excited to get to kick this off, its been almost four months of planning and many many emails. I would first like to thank Ruta Sepetys for allowing me to honor her book in this way. You may recognize her from this post that I wrote about a book club event that I was able to meet her at in December.
Ruta Sepetys was the very first author that I ever emailed after reading her book. I couldn’t sleep that night and then I found myself hunting down her information because I had to let her know how much her book, Between Shades of Gray, affected me. I have gotten to see Ruta in person twice and I hope that you all will take a look at her tour because she is really an author you need to read and meet.

In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina’s father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.

Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they 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, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.

Ruta was so amazing and agreed to an interview with me! Back in August I was able to see her for the first time at the Ash2Nash tour and soon after that is when I emailed her for the first time. I never thought in three million years that I would be hosting a blog tour for her right now. I am so HONORED!

1) I had the privilege of getting to see you at the Nashville stop of the Ash2Nash tour where you told the story about your family’s experience during World War II. The silence that filled the room when you were done really spoke to everyone’s shock, how did you react when you were first told about what happened? Had you had any idea before about the fate of your relatives?

RS – Just like you, I was shocked. I knew that my father and grandparents had left Lithuania and I knew that the country had been Soviet occupied for fifty years. But I didn’t know that some of my grandfather’s extended family had been deported to Siberia. I was stunned and felt ashamed that I wasn’t familiar with my own family’s history. It inspired me to try to give voice to the people who experienced Stalin’s terror but would never have a chance to tell their story.

2) In the story, Lina’s mother reminded me so much of my own mother, and her brother of my own little brother. As I was reading I could not help but imagine myself as Lina, and of how I would react in her situation. Did you put yourself into Lina’s position while you were writing and was this story difficult at times to write? Was it your intention to write a character that was easily relatable to the youth of today even though our experiences are so different?

RS – The story was definitely difficult to write because I knew that the horrific things I was describing actually happened to people. Many of the survivors I interviewed spent their teen years in Siberia and their stories were so compelling. The teens’ will to live was incredibly strong. The story started percolating in my mind immediately: One girl. Her dream of freedom. A voice to bring this secret out of the dark.

I was never really able to imagine myself as Lina because I met people like her and knew that I didn’t have that kind of strength. I wish! But I absolutely thought about what it would be like to be deported. I was constantly plagued with the question: Would I survive?

3) The characters in Between Shades of Gray are all so strong and well developed. We get to see a lot of their personalities in the story. Were any of the characters in the story based or inspired by people you knew or heard about in real life?

RS – Thank you! Yes, some of the characters were inspired by real people. The mother, Elena, is a combination of my mother and my older sister. The character of Lina has many qualities of a woman, Irena, who was a teenager in Siberia and helped me with my research. And the doctor who arrives at the end was someone that I read about in the memoirs of Dalia Grinkeviciute, a woman who was deported to the Arctic.

4) I’ve been watching your European book tour on your FaceBook page and you’ve gotten to go to a lot of really cool places. You have been able to visit a lot of nations that were directly affected by the events that you have described in this book. What is their reaction to this book? Has there been any apprehensive reactions or negative feedback from people who were used to the silence?

RS – It’s been such an honor to tour so many countries for the book. My visits to Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland were very emotional. I met people who had experienced the things I wrote about.This part of history belongs to them. I tell people, I wrote the book, but it’s not my story. The story belongs to people who experienced Stalin’s terror. So meeting the real heroes in these countries was very emotional for me. I cried so much that I now have a reputation for crying! On my last visit to Lithuania people were introducing themselves,saying, “Now, don’t cry, Ruta.” But I can’t help it. Everyone has been so supportive and gracious.

5) Looking on your website I saw that Between Shades of Gray has been published in 28 countries. Did you think that this book was going to be this popular and impact as many people as it is in that many nations? Has it been overwhelming at all?

RS – The foreign sales have been the biggest surprise of all. I scarcely believed that a US publisher would publish the book. And now to have this part of history published in nearly 30 countries…it leaves me speechless. See, I’m going to cry again!

6) You are amazingly talented as a writer; did you take any creative writing classes while in school? What would you recommend to any aspiring authors who might be reading this?

RS – Aw, thank you! Actually, my degree is in finance. I know, kind of bizarre for a writer! I dream of one day getting an MFA and am currently looking at different programs. In terms of advice – if you’re looking to write for children or young adults I absolutely suggest joining SCBWI ( SCBWI is a fantastic resource for both published and pre-published authors. I would not be a published author without SCBWI. But my general writing advice?


Read and read and read. Get a sense for structure, rhythm and flow. Examine books you love and determine why you love them. And lastly, try to find a local writing group so you can share your work with others.

7) On your website it said that you did not learn to speak Lithuanian as a child, do you speak any of it now?

RS – Sadly, I don’t speak much Lithuanian at all. I can muster “taip” (yes) and “gerai” (okay) but I can’t follow a full conversation. Not speaking Lithuanian is one of my greatest regrets. So I’m trying to learn now!

8. Your website is probably the coolest author website that I have ever seen how did you come up with the design of it?

RS – I wish I could take credit for the site but I can’t. My dear friend, Niels Bye Nielsen, is a film composer from Denmark. He also happens to be an incredible designer. He designed the site. My pal Jeroen Noorduis from Holland is an insane programmer. He did all the programming and is the webmaster. Priscila Bara, an artist from Brazil, put together the paper dolls and other bits of whimsy. So it was a global effort and the credit should go to them!

That’s it for the interview but I had a few things left I wanted to say. I really appreciate that you take the time to respond to my emails and I just want to say from the bottom of my heart thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my questions. It really means a lot to me that you would take the time out of your busy schedule to do an interview with me.

RS – Hannah, I really appreciate YOU! You have been such a champion for “Between Shades of Gray.” Because of you, several schools are now studying this part of history. I can’t tell you what that means to the people in the Baltics. Crimes against humanity must never be swept under the rug and thanks to you, readers are picking up the book. My sincere and heartfelt thanks to you.


Here is the schedule for the rest of the tour! Be sure to check out all of the sites because there are so many awesome giveaways.

March 29: Hannah- Intro
The Book Vortex
Interview with Ruta

March 30: Mundie Moms
Mundie Moms
Interview with Gavin

March 31: Jamie/The Hot Author Report
The Hot Author Report
Interview with Ruta

April 1: Brielle/Awesome Bookworm
Awesome Bookworm
Interview with Ruta’s Editor

April 2: Sara/Through the Looking Glass and Back Again
Through the Looking Glass and Back Again
Character Interview- Lina

April 3: Marla/Starting the Next Chapter
Starting the Next Chapter
Interview with Ruta

April 4: Hannah/The Book Vortex
The Book Vortex
Wrap it up. Announce all giveaways on all sites.

Don’t for get that you can all “like” Ruta’s FaceBook page.
Or visit the Between Shades of Gray website.

The paperback Between Shades of Gray will be released on April 3 and I hope that you all go out and pick one up! If you head over to the Few and Far Between section you will see what I’ve got for all of you! Some cool stuff!



  1. Great interview, Hannah! Thank you so much for putting this tour together & for inviting me to take part. It really means a lot to me, as does this fabulous book, and I am so glad to be on board!

  2. Heather Bryce says:

    This book made me cry, cheer and hope for the characters. I loved it! Thank you Ruta for writing this book and to the people who had the courage to contribute their stories.

  3. I haven’t read Shades of Gray yet but I’ve been meaning to pick it up!

  4. I haven’t read Shades of Gray yet but I’ve been meaning to pick it up. It’s on my to be read soon list.