Trailer and interview with Molly Ruttan
We are so excited to be revealing the trailer that Molly Ruttan created for Violet and the Crumbs: a Gluten-Free Adventure written by Abigail Rayner. Also featured is an exclusive interview with Molly, illustrator of Violet and the Crumbs as well as I Am a Thief!.
You and the author Abigail Rayner have worked on a previous book, I Am a Thief! Please tell us about your connection.
I Am a Thief! is about Eliza, a girl who impulsively steals a shiny green gem from a display at school, and then grapples with the idea that she is now a thief. The second I read the manuscript I knew I wanted to jump in, and it was not only because of the obvious—I have no real memory of ever stealing anything when I was a kid (although I probably did steal a crayon or two from a restaurant)! It was Eliza’s identity crisis that really spoke to me. I’m an identical twin, and the question of identity has always been fascinating to me. For Eliza to impulsively take a sparkling stone to keep for herself, and then to allow that stone, and that act, to redefine how she sees herself (and her family), is to me an incredibly interesting bit of human nature. I was hooked, and I decided to illustrate Eliza’s identity crisis alongside her moral crisis. I love that Abigail Rayner didn’t shy away from writing about such a deep and personal issue in a children’s book. Talk about providing opportunity for inspired conversations with kids!
Working on this second book with Abigail, did you have a similar connection?
As it was with I Am a Thief, it was Abigail Rayner’s writing and her ability to weave a more subtle story of human nature into the fabric of the main story that hooked me. Violet and the Crumbs: A Gluten-Free Adventure is about a girl named Violet’s struggle with her recent diagnosis of celiac disease. Universal themes of overcoming a hardship, having fortitude, being an advocate and standing up for yourself drew me in. I illustrated the bulk of the book during the height of the pandemic in this country, and as I worked on it, it occurred to me that while I was illustrating a very personal story, I was also illustrating a journey that people all over the world were experiencing, in a way. Because of a condition beyond her control, Violet finds herself in a position where outside world no longer feels safe. First, she isolates herself. Then she puts on protective gear. Finally, after feeling she can no longer stand the isolation, she figures out a way to communicate. I love how in the process of telling a personal story about celiac disease, Abigail has also written a universal story about the journey of change, accepting that change, adapting to it and then sharing it in a positive and uplifting way.
Abigail has also written a universal story about the journey of change, accepting that change, adapting to it and then sharing it in a positive and uplifting way.Molly Ruttan
Please talk about the stylistic elements and symbols you chose for Violet.
One of the challenges I faced working on the book was to figure out how to illustrate the difference between gluten-free and gluten-containing food! I decided to anthropomorphize the crumbs mentioned in the story into funny and slightly grumpy little creatures, so that I could show them jumping from hands to food in a small swarm. As I was working out this imagery, a picture of a tornado popped into my head. I decided to use swirly clouds hovering around the gluten-containing food as a kind-of atmosphere, or weather condition. This led me to the idea that the outfit Violet creates to protect herself could be primarily rain gear, complete with an umbrella as a shield! Pink rubber gloves, rain boots and a raincoat were added. I wanted her face to be protected too, but I wanted her expressions to still be seen, so I added a helmet. The last touch was the cape—I wanted to emphasize the superhero aspect of her personality and her heroic journey of standing up for herself and educating her friends & classmates about her disease.
Can you please tell us more about your creative process? What technique did you use for these illustrations?
I use both traditional and digital media to create my final art. I start with rough sketches in my notebook and then advance to more worked-out pencil drawings. I create the final drawings with charcoal pencil. Then I scan everything and continue digitally. My background of painting with oils and liquid acrylics influences my digital painting—I paint with pastel “color fields” I have made, layering and working the color in the same way I layer with paint. I also add layers of charcoal textures and liquid acrylic washes & textures I have created, as well as other found textures and color.
You created the trailer yourself which gave you the perspective of a director. Can you compare working as a director vs. as an illustrator?
I had so much fun putting together the trailer for Violet and the Crumbs: A Gluten-Free Adventure! In terms of using imagery to tell a story—and all the decisions involved with that—directing the trailer is very similar to creating a book. In both cases I decide scene sequence, character movement and pacing, etc., to create the experience. In both cases I start with thumbnails in my notebook and then refine. There is much editing in both processes as I move through it and discover what is working and what isn’t. The actual creation experience is extremely different, though. Illustrating a book is a deep dive into the world of that book and into the characters— it is an emotional and passionate journey for me, and it involves making a huge amount of art. In the end it feels like I have brought a new life—in the form of a book— into the world. Making a book trailer feels more like a joyful celebration of that accomplishment.
Now, the holidays are coming up, will you be serving gluten-free food?
Absolutely! Although I do not have celiac disease, I have been eating gluten-free for a while now, along with one of my (grown-up) daughters, (we both suffer from gluten intolerance.) I love to make quiche and apple pie for the holidays, and over the years I have perfected my gluten-free pie crust! My daughter makes an awesome GF stuffing. I also enjoy making GF popovers—a comfort food from my childhood. I love to bake GF cornbread and GF cookies too. Even though pandemic caution will again make our table smaller this year, I still plan to bake! Bring on the holidays, I’m ready!
Agent: Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency