Hometown author’s epic Success
By Chuck Palmer
“Being brave is not about lacking fear. If you are never scared, you will never understand what it means to be brave.”
Author and Douglas County High School graduate, Julie Leung writes of bravery, adventure, knights, friendship, and mice… yes, mice, in her epic middle grades series Mice of the Round Table published by HarperCollins. The three book series is a sprawling adventure in the spirit of Lord of the Rings and The Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Set in the somewhat familiar world of Camelot, Ms. Leung takes readers on a journey with the lesser known inhabitants of King Arthur’s world.
The first book in the series, Mice of the Round Table #1: A Tail of Camelot was published in 2016 to exceptional reviews for a debut author. Kirkus described it as “A winning new adventure featuring a stalwart warrior mouse, heroic knights, and magical Camelot.” Booklist said “Leung’s debut is a charming blend of Arthurian legend and Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. With likable characters and a classic spirit of adventure, this is a satisfying story of small heroes accomplishing great things.” The second in the series, Mice of the Round Table #2 Voyage to Avalon, is due out in October.
Julie Leung graduated from Douglas County High School in 2005. She attended Arbor Station Elementary and Chapel Hill Middle School and, though she lives in New York City now, still considers Douglasville as her hometown. “I have exceedingly fond memories of high school, particularly my junior and senior years when I finally got a car. Having a car meant that I could fully participate in extracurriculars such as Musical Theater, Color Guard, Beta Club, and others,” said Leung.
School seems to have had a lasting impression on her. “I began to pursue writing more seriously at school when teachers encouraged me. I remember winning a D.A.R.E. essay-writing contest in 5th grade and being invited to read it aloud to the class. Pretty sure I still have that ribbon displayed prominently at my parent’s house.” Ms. Leung responds to questions with the same twinkle of an eye that is found in her books. While the Round Table tackles some serious moments, it is balanced with humor and heart.
In her first book, Leung also thanks local libraries, in Douglasville, Villa Rica, and Jonesboro, for carrying the books that influenced her the most (Frank L. Baum’s Oz series, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series, Brian Jacques’ Redwall series). “I believe that at the core of every good writer is an insatiable reader. The library was instrumental in my upbringing. It was one of the few luxuries my parents would allow me to indulge in as a kid. No sleepovers, no name brand clothes, no unnecessary toys, but I could check out as many books as I wanted.”
Her parents immigrated from China in the 1970s and ran a Chinese American restaurant until she graduated from high school. Most summers and weekends found her there, running the register, with a stack of library books secreted away for company during the slower times in the restaurant. Much to her parents’ chagrin, instead of pursuing a business or medical degree, Leung became an English/Journalism major at The University of Georgia. “Guess those library privileges backfired for them,” she said with her characteristic smile.
While Julie Leung humbly thanks many for her success, she acknowledges that becoming a published author is a grueling process, and perseverance is the key. “First you have to muster enough dedication to finish a complete draft. Then you have to convince an agent to represent you. Then the agent has to convince a publisher to publish it. If that happens, you go through more edits and rewrites with your editor, which can be just as painful as writing a book from scratch sometimes. When I first sold Mice of the Round Table, I was told that I had too many characters. So I had to edit out half my mice! All this is to say, being a writer is not for the faint-of-will, and not for the thin-skinned.”
When Leung writes “Every knight has to start somewhere. Even the greatest of warriors was once a page,” she speaks from experience.