Hi Math is Everywhere readers,
I’m so excited today because we have a joint interview AND a video premiere! We have the honor of talking with the author and illustrator of Love, Violet! Please welcome, author Charlotte Sullivan Wild and Illustrator Charlene Chua. And stay tuned until the end to check out the beautiful video and get in on the GIVEAWAY!
Perfect for Valentine’s Day, Love, Violet by Charlotte Sullivan Wild and Charlene Chua is a touching picture book about friendship and the courage it takes to share your feelings.
Of all the kids in Violet’s class, only one makes Violet’s heart skip: Mira, the girl with the cheery laugh who races like the wind. If only they could adventure together! But every time Violet tries to tell Mira how she feels, Violet goes shy. As Valentine’s Day approaches, Violet is determined to tell Mira just how special she is.
Charlene Chua’s warm, luminous watercolors bring to life this sweet and gentle picture book about friendship, love, and the courage it takes to share your heart — even when it’s pounding!
Kaitlyn: Thanks so much for joining us today Charlotte and Charlene!
Charlotte: Thank you for inviting us to chat about Love, Violet!
Charlene: Hello and thank you from me too.
Kaitlyn: It’s so wonderful to have you both. To start off, can you both tell us about your process of working together?
Charlotte: As is typical, Charlene and I didn’t have direct contact during the creation of the book. I sent my words and magical art appeared! I was invited to offer feedback, but that’s usually focused on representation (say gender or orientation) or how the pictures reflect the text. Charlene gets freedom over her style and vision, just as I did. We did connect online, though, and shared our personal thoughts about the project. I enjoyed that!
Charlene: As Charlotte mentioned, we really didn’t have much contact when actually working on the book. This is usually the case with picture books, and I seldom have direct contact with the author. Normally I work with the art director on a book, and they act as an intermediary between me and the author (and sometimes the editor and sensitivity readers as well).
Kaitlyn: So happy that you both got to have your freedom for the project because it created such a beautiful book. Charlotte, what was the inspiration for this story?
Charlotte: Even though I’d had crushes on girls when I was kid, I didn’t realize I was gay until my thirties, which was… hard. How had I not known? The evidence was so obvious, all the way back to preschool! Yet I could never see it for what it was. Not until everything was falling apart. Why? Well, I grew up with NO images of queer love. NONE. Later, I only heard horrific stories about queerness. I didn’t realize that I could exist. That caused so much damage. I didn’t want kids today to grow up like that. So, drawing heavily from real experiences (of my queer friends, kids and my own), I aimed to make this story as honest as possible about how a crush feels at this age (about seven). And to show that what matters is not your “category” but LOVE.
The other inspiration for Love, Violet? I fell in love! Spectacularly, with homemade valentines, cute hats, twirling snow -- all of it! Newly out to myself, I dared to write a scary, scary article for the newspaper about what it was like to grow up lesbian in a Very Religious Family in the Upper Midwest USA. I outed myself and my family at a time when doing that cost a lot: a marriage, a job, consequences for my family. A woman who was also realizing her orientation late, and in an unsafe place, saw the article. We met on a snowy day. She wore that adorable cap... the rest is history! AND the inspiration for Love, Violet!
Kaitlyn: Chills! And not because of the snowy day, but because that’s all so beautiful! Charlene, what inspired you to want to do the illustrations for this story?
Charlene: I remember getting the manuscript for the book, reading it and feeling very touched. It really is a beautiful story and even though I’ve read it many times during the course of the work, it still makes me tear up a little! The art style requested for the story is also a bit different from other books I have worked on, and I was interested and excited to have the opportunity to work on what I considered a special story.
Kaitlyn: Aw, that’s so wonderful! If a book can still make you tear up again and again, you know it’s special, and I’m so glad you took on this new style; like all your work, it’s stunning! This next one is for both of you: why do you think this story is so important to share with kids?
Charlotte: I think sometimes we all feel insecure like Violet does, terrified we aren’t good enough. I love that Violet is finally able to be herself - not by being perfect (nope: everything falls apart!) - but by sharing her heart. I hope kids see that it is in being vulnerable, real and messy, that we connect. And of course, it thrills my heart to think of kids seeing joyful, innocent love between girls! What that would have meant to little Charlotte, who felt that but couldn’t express it… is beyond words.
Charlene: I think kids are (consciously to otherwise) inundated with images about what love is, who they should love and how they should express love. And those views are obviously presented to them by adults, some of whom have rather narrow and unrealistic opinions on what love can be. I think this story is important, not just as a positive queer story, but also because it shows love as a complex and beautiful thing. As Charlotte says, it’s not about things working out perfectly; it’s about caring, trust, respect, compromise, friendship. All of these qualities are present in love, and I think it’s important that kids get to see them presented in a positive light.
Charlotte: Beautiful, Charlene.
Kaitlyn: Ditto! I teared up reading these responses. Charlene, how did you decide on the characters for this lovely story?
Charlene: I had a quick chat with the art director before starting on the book. We decided to make Violet white, as the story was very close to Charlotte and we felt that would be appropriate for the character. I do like including characters of various ethnicities, so I decided to make Mira a girl with dark hair and brown skin. Initially I had both girls looking feminine; this was because of my own experiences growing up. I went to an all-girls school in Singapore, and at least in my school, people only believed you were in a lesbian relationship when one girl looked masculine and the other looked feminine. So I thought it would be nice to show both girls looking more feminine. We reviewed the designs and ultimately we decided to adjust Violet's appearance a little (really it was just her hairstyle, her outfit remained the same). I didn’t mind making the changes to the design though, and I think it works just as well if not more so.
Kaitlyn: Thanks for openly sharing about these decisions; I know my readers just learned a ton from that response about creating characters. So, Charlotte, we’ve got to know, what did you think when you saw the characters Charlene came up with?
Charlotte: They’re ADORABLE! And I love that they are an interracial pair. That was important to me, since, as Charlene said, the team felt that Violet should be white to reflect my identity, which makes sense. But I’m mindful that queer representation, too, tends to follow the hierarchies of power. We see more white characters, more able, cis, middle class male ones before anyone else. I wanted Love, Violet to honor those who too often don’t see themselves. (I was thinking very much of several friends.)
Also? To see Violet with that swirl of hair makes me so happy! Originally, Violet had long windy hair, which was lovely. Yet I kept wondering about it. I’m feminine, so she looked like me. But Violet always seemed somewhat gender queer to me - she loves those boots, that cowgirl hat, she imagines heroics (all inspired by real people). After much thought, I asked if we might consider more “queer” hair for her to fit her pitch-perfect clothes and gender expression. In our culture, positive, nuanced portrayals of butch charactrs are rare. Yet behold Charlene’s magic! Many of my butch friends weren’t allowed to wear the clothes or hair they wanted as kids. And I hadn’t realized feminine queer girls like Mira and me could exist. So to see Violet and Mira... just being themselves... is PURE LOVE.
Kaitlyn: Absolutely beautiful. The amazing thought and detail placed in every aspect of this book is just stunning! Thank you both again for bringing such a beautiful, powerful book into the world. Now, if you each HAD to pick a favorite spread, which one is it and why?
Charlotte: When Mira rushes up and dazzles Violet, snow sparkling on her eyelashes! ALSO: the girls running off into that snowy sunset! (I could list 10 more - but I’ve already broken the rules! )
Charlene: Charlotte already picked my favourite spreads! 😅
Charlotte: Well, ALL of them are my favorites, so…
Charlene: For single pages, I put a lot of emotional effort into the page where Violet hides behind a tree, and when she runs away from Mira. They’re slightly funny, but also feel pretty true to my own emotions regarding some people from when I was younger.
Charlotte: Actually… I had listed both of those, too! But I’d already mentioned two…. Violet hiding behind that tree with visceral fear and longing -- it’s one of the strongest emotional images in the book. It reminds me of how being in the closet feels, especially while loving from afar. And when Violet bolts right into the page gutter? Hilarious, relatable, heartbreaking. As is the spot opposite of her curled into her desk in misery.
Kaitlyn: I just adore how naturally you both feed off of each other. I think there may be another book with you two in the future!
Charlotte: During the ten years it took for Love, Violet to become a book, I dreamed that the art would capture those windy, topsy-turvy feelings of love and the magic of winter light and hues. Charlene’s warm and evocative watercolors are breathtaking!
Kaitlyn: Agreed! Dream illustrator for sure, and so perfect for this beautiful story, Charlotte. Okay, last question, if you were able to spend the day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you rather drink tea by the fireside or go fly a kite?
Charlene: Tea of course. I could never fly a kite anyway, and I don’t like being out in the sun much.
Charlotte: Both! Licorice tea, please, after a long, windy hike!
Kaitlyn: Tea is so amazing (*she says while sipping her Kava tea*). Thank you both so much for this delightful interview, and I can’t wait to see all the wonderful posts of all the children your beautiful book inspires and helps feel comfortable in their skin.
Charlotte: Thank you so much for the chance to talk about Love, Violet!
Charlene: My pleasure, thanks for the opportunity to chat about Love, Violet!
Kaitlyn: The pleasure was all mine! And now, dear readers, drum roll please… I’m excited to share that right here on Math is Everywhere a new video dropping today: Love, Violet: A Valentine for You!
Charlotte: I sold the manuscript for Love, Violet the very month my health collapsed into chronic illness. So I’ve had to think creatively about how to share this special book. Turns out, you can do voice overs from bed! Charlene was a sport and collaborated with me on this video project, along with several friends and kidlit authors of LGBTQIAP2+ books. Our hearts are in this video! There is also a full presentation for bookstores, educators, and conferences (available on request), in which we reveal the behind-the-scenes story of bringing Love, Violet to life, including a look at Charlene’s original art! I’m so happy to be able to connect with our community this way. And if this video speaks to you, I hope you’ll share it!
Charlotte Sullivan Wild was first struck speechless by a crush in preschool. In grade school she may have cut and pasted a special Valentine for someone and been too shy to sign it. But she’s not shy about love anymore! She has loved teaching, selling books, creating kidlit events, and talking about books on the radio. Her first picture book is The Amazing Idea of You, illustrated by Mary Lundquist. Originally from snowy Minnesota, she now lives wherever her wife is stationed, from Texas to Italy, to see what they might find—together! She is represented by Minju Chang at BookStop Literary Agency. Learn more: www.charlotteswild.com
Charlene Chua (she/they) has illustrated many things over the years for kids of all ages. Her illustration work has won several awards, while books she has illustrated have been nominated for OLA Forest of Reading, USBBY Outstanding International Books, Shining Willow Award, and Kirkus Best books.
When Charlene is not making art, they enjoy cooking, reading, and playing with their cats. She now lives with her husband (and cats!) in Hamilton, Ontario. Charlene is represented by Tracy Marchini at BookEnds Literary for all book projects.
With beautiful art to match this beautiful story, Love, Violet, is a gorgeous story about being yourself and loving who you want to love. I’m so happy to have this story in my daughter’s library so she knows she can be comfortable with who she is and who she loves no matter what. This book would definitely be great for Valentine’s Day, but it’s also great for every day of the year!
Giveaway: Enter to win a copy of LOVE, VIOLET (US and Canada only please)
To enter the random drawing, do any/all of the following options, then come back and write all of the things you did in ONE blog comment. (If you forget something, feel free to reply to your first comment ;))
- Share that you added LOVE, VIOLET to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share that you ordered a copy of LOVE, VIOLET
- Share that you did a purchase request for LOVE, VIOLET at your library
- Share that you left a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble
- Share that you retweeted or quote retweeted my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tagged some friends.
Thank you, readers, for supporting more wonderful creators and for your patience with me on the giveaways. I will be doing LOTS of giveaway announcements coming up in time for the holidays, I hope!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez