Interview with Abigail Rayner and Molly Ruttan

Are you ready for some gluten free fun?! Check out this special author and illustrator #ChatWithThePBLady

đź“šDo you like gameshows?

Abigail: I really don’t enjoy gameshows—they stress me out! TV is escapism for me, and game shows don’t do it. The only gameshow I have ever enjoyed was the spoof one called Numberwang, which makes no sense at all. I encourage everyone to check it out, especially Olivia Colman fans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0obMRztklqU

Molly: I’m not a gameshow fan, but I love playing table games! I do the crossword almost every day with my husband and I have been known to carry around a book of sudoku or ken-ken. I also love playing Bananagrams and Skip-Bo.

đź“šWhat’s the perfect way to spend a weekend?

Abigail: A perfect weekend involves walking my dogs, and any others I happen to have hanging around (I recently started a dog-sitting side gig, which is great fun). Usually, my husband and son will come along. Then it’s all about the coffee and writing, playing with kids and dogs, maybe a spot of baking. The sun shines, the birds sing…

Molly: My favorite activity right now is going to the zoo or the park with my daughter and new grandbaby! But I also love hearing live music, and going on road trips, especially if they end up somewhere very green with lots of trees, near a body of water, or both! The occasional weekend in the recording studio with my good friend Phideaux (who is continually composing amazing music) and other band-mates is also a lot of fun. (I sing and play drums.)

đź“šWhat superhero would make a great best friend?

Abigail: Superman because he’s so dependable and sweet. I would never have to stress about driving over bridges. Plus, he can fly, something which I haven’t managed to pull off yet, so maybe he could teach me.

Molly: Dr Strange! It would be incredible to be able to step through his portals and instantly visit my far-flung family & friends, and visit different parts of the world.

đź“šWhat does teamwork mean to you?

Abigail:It’s an equal exchange of ideas and sharing of work, where everyone feels seen and heard–the opposite of working in a team at school where the bossy kids override everything you say and then tell the teacher they had to do all the work!

Molly: I have an identical twin sister, so I grew up as a two-person team. I never played team sports, but I was born and raised with a partner. It is a natural state of being for me!

đź“šNow, let’s talk about VIOLET AND THE CRUMBS. Abigail can you tell us about this book and why it was important to write this story?

Abigail: Yes, this book is based on my daughter’s struggles with social isolation after she was diagnosed with celiac disease at age eight. Friendships get a little dicey around that age anyway, but celiac creates an extra complication. The first year was incredibly hard, and no one seemed to understand. My way of handling that was to write down what she was going through in little fragments, which later served as the basis for the book. Molly’s pictures do an amazing job of showing how Violet feels, and I can really see that kids are “getting it” when I read the book to them.

đź“šThere’s lots of great humor woven into the story. Abigail, why was adding humor important? Do you have any advice for writers who want to add humor to their books?

Humor is the way I deal with most hard things! Rare is the moment when a laugh is out of place—at least for me. I think it’s a very English way of coping. I think we need to laugh to get us through, and it is a wonderful way of connecting with people. I don’t know what advice to give on writing humor except to say, don’t be afraid to tell the truth and don’t try too hard!

đź“šMolly, can you tell us about your illustration style? What are your favorite mediums to use?

I create my illustrations through a collaboration of traditional and digital media. I love working traditionally, so I work primarily with charcoal and pastel on watercolor and other papers. Then I scan everything into Photoshop and finish by compositing and painting digitally. I love the blends of texture and color I can create this way.

đź“šMolly, can you describe how you made Abigail’s words come to life? What were your first thoughts after reading the story?

It is a bit hard to describe! But as my former teacher Marla Frazee has said, “illustrators and writers don’t collaborate—words and pictures do!” So as my illustration enhances Abigail’s words, Abigail’s words enhance my illustration.
The first time I read Violet and the Crumbs: A Gluten-free Adventure, I couldn’t believe it!! I wish it had existed when my kids were little. My family has struggled with gluten intolerance for a long time, and it would have been SO helpful for us. I knew right away that it was an important book and I was thrilled to be a part of it!

đź“šDo either of you have any yummy gluten free snack ideas you’d like to share?

Abigail: I have millions, but I make a pretty bang-up gf Victoria sponge, which goes perfectly with whipped cream and berries.

Molly: My favorite gluten-free snack is a bowl of frozen grapes! I find them very refreshing.

đź“šWhat else would you like to say about your book?

Abigail: Although it is about celiac disease, it has universal appeal because we all feel different, or left out, sometimes and we all need to learn to advocate for ourselves and take care of each other. On the other hand, I love how the book reaches out a hand to kids with celiac specifically. I saw a picture of a child holding the book on Instagram the other day. They had recently been diagnosed with celiac and looked so thrilled to be holding it. The book will make celiac kids feel seen. Every time a classroom of kids reads Violet and the Crumbs they will have more knowledge and empathy about this disease than most adults. That’s pretty amazing.

Molly: My family love bunnies, and my house has been filled with both plushie and live bunnies for many years. I always love to include a bunny or two in every book I make! Also appearing in this book is a visual reference to my previous book with Abigail, I Am A Thief! Can you find the bunnies and the thief?

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