Ask The Author

Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea

At the beginning of your book, you dedicated this book "For my father, My hero." Is there a reason why you specifically mentioned your father in this book?
Barira, 14

RS: During World War II, my father had to flee from his home in Lithuania. He spent nine years in refugee camps before coming to the United States. Despite incredible hardship and displacement, my father endured and persevered. He is a very positive person and a constant reminder that we don't choose our suffering, but we can choose how we face our suffering. Thanks for asking, Barira!

Dear Ruta Sepetys, I would like to ask, why is the book called "Salt to the Sea"? I tried to make links to it however I would like to know what is the meaning behind the title? P.s: I love your book and I hope you keep writing.
Angie, 13

RS: Thank you, Angie! I'm so happy you enjoyed the book. In terms of the title—The human body needs salt. There is salt in our sweat and salt in our tears. And while water evaporates, salt remains and therefore has an eternal quality. These refugees, they gave their sweat and tears throughout the evacuation. When the ship sank, thousands of people became part of the sea. I want these stories to remain and to live on, in honor of these people who gave their salt to the sea.

What inspired to write a book about war, loss from the perspective of young people?
YEAR 10 Shadowing Group, London

RS: What I tried to focus on in the novel, and what I’d like readers to consider, is the plight of the children. We cannot forget that amidst border shifts and war, children are innocent victims. Often, it’s the children who are left with an inheritance of responsibility for events they had no role in causing. So I decided to tell the story through four young people who feel hunted and haunted by tragedy, lies, and war.

Did your parents/ friends/ grandparents know anyone in the same situation as the characters in the book? If not, did you find it hard to write from their perspective?
Evie, 12

RS: Hi Evie! Yes, my father's cousin took part in the evacuation and her family had secured passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff. By a twist of fate, the day of the voyage they were not able to board the ship. My father's cousin is the one who encouraged me to write about the evacuation and the sinking.

Is the Ruby Swan real and if so, is it at the bottom of the Baltic sea?
Hillhead High School 3A2 Shadowing Group, Scotland

RS: Hello to all at Hillhead! Although the Amber Room treasure is certainly very real, the amber swan is fictional and something I created for Florian's story. In this case, the swan represents the "fiction" in historical fiction. :)

When you were writing the book, did it affect you emotionally?
Loulabelle, 13

RS: Hello Loulabelle! Yes, writing the book did impact me emotionally. I spent a lot of time thinking about the innocent children who were forced leave their family, their country, and their home—including my father and members of his extended family. To capture that loss of innocence, I created the characters of the wandering boy and Emilia. Those characters were very emotional for me to write.