I'm pleased to welcome Ruta Sepetys to Michigander Monday!
Debbie: Ruta, please tell us a little about yourself.
Ruta: Sure! Here are some Michigan details -
I was born in Detroit and raised in Farmington Hills. I attended Harrison High School and graduated from Hillsdale College.
My grandparents lived in Detroit near 7 Mile and Woodward. I have enormously fond memories of spending time at their house with my siblings and cousins. We created stories, plays, songs, and crazy puppet shows on that street in Detroit.
Below is a recent photo of the neighborhood. Yes, the sidewalks and windows are now cracked and empty, but when I close my eyes I can still hear whispers of voices, laughter, and the magic that was made there.
Debbie: How have your Michigan roots affected you?
Ruta: Growing up in Michigan and being exposed to the city of Detroit has definitely had an impact on my life and my writing.
Detroit possesses a unique fighting spirit that inspires me. That spirit is infused in the characters I create.
Bloodied but unbroken. Never given a break but never giving up. Detroit gave life and love to industry, immigrants, musicians, artists, and athletes. Right now the city might be fiscally bankrupt but it will always be rich in story and soul.
Debbie: And, of course, we want to know all about your books.
Ruta: Thank you! I write historical fiction. I search for under-represented parts of history and weave fictional characters within them.
Through characters and story, I try to bring history alive in a way that readers will absorb and remember. I currently have two novels available:
Between Shades of Gray
Between Shades of Gray is set in 1941 and tells the story of a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl who is arrested and deported to Siberia during Stalin's terror in the Baltic States.
Out of the Easy
Out of the Easy is set in 1950 in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The story follows Josie Moraine, the daughter of a brothel prostitute who is trying to escape the Big Easy and the identity she's been born into.
Debbie: Other books or projects on the horizon?
Ruta: Yes, I'm just finishing my third book which takes place at the end of WWII and exposes a historical event that's been underground for over sixty years. I'm very excited about the new book.
Debbie: Upcoming appearances?
Ruta: Yes! On January 21st I will be making the following appearance in Michigan. I would love to see and meet your readers there!
Tuesday, January 21
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads Presents "Between Shades of Gray"
6:00 p.m. Reception
7:00 p.m. Presentation
Washtenaw Community College
4800 Huron River Drive
Ann Arbor, MI
Debbie: Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore? And/or a favorite Michigan library?
Ruta: Bookstore: Reading Express in Farmington Hills. It was a tiny independent bookstore, sadly long gone now. They had a fantastic selection of kids' books.
I used to sit on the floor and read while my mom shopped at the market next door.
Library: Farmington Community Library. When I was little, I used to think my library card was a Visa or Mastercard. I'd heap my books up onto the counter and whisper, "Put it all on the card, please."
My favorite books to "charge?" Always something by Roald Dahl or The Littles by John Peterson.
(A bit of Michigan library trivia - Michigan was the first state to provide in its Constitution for the establishment of public libraries.)
Debbie: How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Ruta: I'll choose a favorite late night haunt. I wonder if any of your readers are familiar with it?
As you drive south on Orchard Lake Road, perched on the corner of Ten Mile is a white tiled cube building that serves the best midnight sliders. White Castle, you say? No! Greene's.
Debbie: Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Ruta: I love visiting the Franklin Cider Mill in the fall. There's something so beautiful about waiting in line and battling the bees for a sack of plain cake donuts.
Debbie: A few fun Michigan people or companies we should all know about?
Ruta: Absolutely! I'm so glad you asked.
Michelle Bommarito, Chef
Michelle grew up in Michigan. She is a U of M graduate and a renowned chef. She's been on the culinary staff at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, has worked for Martha Stewart, and has appeared on many Food Network TV shows. She currently lives in Michigan and often gives workshops and events. Don't miss her!
North Star Media
Prior to becoming a writer, I spent 22 years working in the music business in Los Angeles and Nashville. North Star Media is a boutique music entertainment firm in Michigan. Tucked away in Bloomfield Hills, they are quickly becoming a secret weapon in the industry. North Star represents a diverse roster of recording artists, ranging from brand new indies to multi-platinum superstars. They also work closely with some of today's top composers and producers. Some of the best new music discoveries are coming out of North Star. I'm so thrilled to see such a successful music venture in Michigan!
Debbie: Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Ruta: Yes, Michigan Modernism. People outside of Michigan often associate the state solely with the automobile industry. But Michigan's design legacy reaches far beyond automotive. Some of the best modern architecture and furniture design was conceived in Michigan and associated with Cranbrook Educational Community. In fact, it has been said that mid-century modernism was born through Cranbrook. Saarinen, Bertoia, Eames, Knoll - they all had ties to Cranbrook. http://www.cranbrook.edu/
Debbie: Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally, which is the better term: Michigander or Michiganian?
Ruta: I've gotta go with Michigander. That feels more real - like boots in the snow, trips to Traverse City, the Lions on Thanksgiving, 'pop' instead of 'soda.'
Michigander speaks of a warrior, someone in the trenches, someone who is hard-working, creative, and loves their land - even in sub-zero temperatures.
A "Michigander" can take a punch and get back up. A "Michiganian" sounds more like a quiet resident.
Debbie: Michigander it is! Ruta, thank you so very much for joining us today for Michigander Monday.
And I hope mid-Michigan Michiganders will make a point to go see you Tuesday, January 21, at the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads event!