Allison Gorner, Author
This Book is Top Secret

Q: What inspired you to write This Book is Top Secret?

A: I wanted to write a children’s book that would entertain both children and adults, so I thought about what books my kids like reading, and what I enjoyed as a child. We love interactive, fun, silly books that have a bit of mystery, or surprise, that we could read over and over again like This Book Has No Pictures by B.J. Novak, and There’s a Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone writing for Sesame Street. Thinking on those themes, I was inspired by a game I play with my kids where I grin and tell them not to do something in a silly voice like, “don’t smile,” “don’t pick up your toys,” or “don’t give me a hug.” They laugh and do it anyway while I “try” to stop them. They love it. And it’s a great way to get them to do chores. So, what better way to get a child to read my book than by telling them not to?

Q: Do you think about places you’ve lived when you write your stories or do you invent someplace new?

A: It’s a good mix of both, but I often go back to my childhood experiences growing up in the mountains and woods of Sparwood, BC, and to my summers swimming and making little boats out of scrap wood in Atikokan, ON. I also like to write about places that I wish I could go to, like on a spaceship or an underground bunker.

Q: As a writer, you must have a great imagination. Because of this, have your children acquired any interesting or unusual skills?

A: My children are great at disposing of diaper “bombs.” I’ll call out to my little secret agents that there is a bomb and they’ll pick up a dirty diaper from a younger sibling and rush it to the garbage before it “explodes” while I count down to zero. Also, I often sing instructions to them, and they’ll sing a response. It’s fun to make games out of menial tasks.

Q: You’ve written some far-out stories. Do you prefer aliens or Sasquatches? Why?

A: That’s a tough one, but I think I prefer aliens. There’s so much more scope of creativity when writing about aliens. They can be whatever you imagine.

Q: What’s your favourite writing snack when no one else is home and you don’t have to share?

A: Probably popcorn or hot chocolate with peanut butter toast. But, it really could be anything that I’m “saving” for school lunches. Yesterday I had a fruit roll-up.

Q: If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?

A: Teleportation. And the ability to bring anyone I want with me. Want to go to Hawaii for a swim? Bam! we’re there! How about visiting my favourite auntie across the country? Easy-peasy.

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Stacey O’Sullivan, Illustrator
This Book is Top Secret

Q: Tell us about your creative process for This Book is Top Secret.

A: I had some ideas in my head after Allison gave me the text. She included certain things like “footprints and end of a tail in this image” to pace the reveal of the characters throughout the story. 

I drew tons and tons of different aliens. One eye, two eyes, three eyes, spines, horns, different alien pets until finally something just seemed to work. It can take hours and hours – like more than 10 or 15 just to get a look for them. 

Q: Do you have a favourite illustration or character in the book?

A: I think my favourite illustration is Dr Luna tearing her hair out. I enjoyed drawing her getting more and more frazzled on each page. My fave character though is Cosmo the cat. He gets to do all the fun stuff. Bombs, spray graffiti, pose in cool glasses.

Q: What kind of drawing background do you have?

A: I have been drawing since I was a very young child and have a Fine Arts Degree from University of Waterloo. I draw traditionally on paper with lots of different mediums. I love pen and ink. I do very realistic stuff with paint and pencil crayons as well. More recently, I . learned to draw digitally on an iPad Pro with an app called Procreate and an Apple pencil. It’s like traditional drawing but you just have to tap to erase and you can draw on different layers. There are so many options to make drawing easier.

I like both realistic stuff and cartoons. The hyper real stuff is challenging and precise. The cartoons are more fun and creative. They also have so much colour. I love colour.

Q: What’s your favourite drawing snack when no one else is home and you don’t have to share?

A: I think it has to be cheese. I love cheese with or without crackers. Add some pickles or olives. Yum. Oh and a diet Pepsi too.

Q: If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?

A: I would like to understand and talk to animals. I want to know what they are thinking. Especially cats. Are they really psychopaths or just misunderstood?

Stacey is on Instagram @anchovykitty