Please introduce us to you and your family. We’re the Campbell-Leungs. My husband Kyle and I moved to Ridgefield a little over a year ago, after I became pregnant with our second. Before that, we called Brooklyn home for over 10 years. We adore how family-friendly the town is. It feels perfect for raising our two boys—Kieran who is almost four years old and Cyrus who is 8 months old.
Tell us the story behind your early days as a writer. Was there a specific teacher or class that inspired you to foster your love of writing? My parents ran a Chinese restaurant during my childhood and it was an all-hands-on-deck affair. I ran the cash register after school and on weekends–my primary form of entertainment being stacks of library books. Needless to say, I beasted every Pizza Hut Book It contest. But more importantly, I developed a healthy obsession for the written word. And eventually, I started writing my own stories. There was a lot of fan fiction to start, but I soon figured out my own voice.
Please educate us on your published books. Do they all weave lessons of culture within real-life activities for families, children, adults? My first books were a work-for-hire project, a fun trilogy called Mice of The Round Table where I could indulge my love for Arthurian legends and the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. From there, I secured a literary agent and began to publish my original stories. Most of my work to date are picture book biographies about Chinese Americans. Growing up in Georgia in the ‘90s, I didn’t have access to a lot stories that reflected my culture and heritage. I feel like it is my purpose as an author to change that for the next generation. My first picture book, Paper Son: The Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist, won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.
Tell us about your most recent and personal publication, The Truth About Dragons? What a captivating title for young ones! Despite our commitment to raise our boys in a family of blended cultures, one that celebrates Mid-Autumn Festival with as much gusto as Halloween, we can’t escape the fact that there will be times when our sons will be pressured to pick one identity over the other. This book is my exploration of how two cultural birthrights can exist in harmony and how much richer one’s adventures will be when there’s not one but many truths about dragons to discover.
Tell us about your work as the Marketing Director for Disney Books. I joined Disney just over a year ago as well. (That’s right, we decided to move, have a second baby, and switch jobs all in 2022!) Prior to that, I spent most of my career at Penguin Random House. I love working in publishing—a culmination of all those years reading at the cash register. For me, book marketing is an alchemy of creative instincts and strong data insights – understanding the target audience for every title and also understanding the factors that motivate a reader to pick one book over the other.
What would be your best piece of advice for aspiring writers, journalists, illustrators? I strongly believe that in order to write well, one must read often, broadly, and with a critical eye. Also, as a matter of personal satisfaction, try to enjoy the journey and process of writing over the destination of getting published.
What are some local bookstores that carry your books and/or please provide the best link for online purchases. The Truth About Dragons is available at Books on the Common in Ridgefield and Byrd’s Books in Bethel. The rest of my titles are available here: https://jleungbooks.com/