Zodiacland: The Dragon Kingdom


What inspired you to write your book?

I had the thought to write about Chinese zodiac animals when I joined two school tours, one in Studio City and one in Valley Plaza, to select a school for my then 5-year-old son. Both schools had some Chinese decorations for Chinese New Year when I visited, and both taught their students about the twelve Chinese zodiac animals. That reminded me that growing up in China, I always felt a lack of good stories about those amazing Zodiac animals. There are some, but they don't make a lot of sense to me, and they are very scarce. Then, Kung Fu Panda and Zootopia were definitely great inspirations for me to reinvent the Chinese Zodiac stories. I want to create a more complete story, a universe about the Chinese Zodiac, and incorporate some ancient Chinese wisdom and legends into it. I thought, if my son is going to learn some Chinese culture from school anyway, why not learn it in more depth and in a fun way.


What age group did you write the book for?

Mainly for elementary school kids aged 6 to 10. But any super hero fantasy and adventure lovers may find it fun to read as well.


What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book?

The most important thing to me is that I hope readers can have fun reading it. Some parents may find it educational. For example, the five values guarded by the five Guardians — kindness, justice, decorum, wisdom, and faithfulness — are the five core values from Confucianism. The mysterious ancient book that documented the lost history of Zodiacland and the powers of the five magical stones that later united with the five Guardians, known as The Way, and many quotes from it, are from Taoism. Taoism is not only about how the universe works, the philosophy around it, and, coincidentally, is often believed to be associated with ancient alchemy for rejuvenation and immortality — yes, you would immediately think of the Philosopher’s stone. A lot of things are connected in different cultures, aren’t they?

Not just that, Chinese dragons are amphibious creatures that live in water - they are the rulers of the four seas in Chinese ancient legend. They master water and determine when it rains. They fly without wings and possess magical powers that ancient people couldn’t understand. Guess what, Nüwa, the creator of mankind in Chinese mythology, is half human, half snake, and lives in water. She and her husband/brother Fuxi are both literally of the dragon or mermaid kind. That’s probably the reason that all Chinese emperors in history used dragons to symbolize that their powers are god-given, and they are considered sons of gods. That’s why in Book 2, we will talk about dragons and mermaids, and how they came from another planet of higher and more ancient cilvilazation. Again, I find it cross-cultural because far, far away, in West Africa, there’s also this alien amphibious creator called Nommo in Dogon religion. That’s why in our story, the mermaids call themselves the Nommos. Additionally, Nüwa is believed to have created five colored stones that stopped the great flood. There, that’s why we have five guardians, and each inherited one stone, totaling five.

Does that ancient great flood sound familiar? Every culture may have some ancient myth about a great flood. So, in our next book, Book 3, we will touch upon Shennong, another ancient Chinese god who invented farming, calendar, and medicine. What’s cool about it? He has two horns on his head - we have our Guardian of Decorum, a goat, also with two horns of course, who not only inherited the Earth stone, but also his destiny to save Zodiacland by rebooting agriculture, after a catastrophic flood. 

There’s more of course. You will find interesting origins for those on-going stories. And life experience, about the most evil in disguise of the good and the most innocent. Of course, nothing is too harsh, but in an easy and delicate way, because after all, this is a book series for kids. As a mother of a soon-to-be 8-year-old, I would like to tell him there’s good and evil, and the good will always win the evil, with courage, friendship, and faith.


How did you decide on your books title and cover design?

I think it’s an easy choice to make it Zodiacland, because it’s about the ancient and mythical Zodiac world. 

How long did it take you to write the book?

I started it during the pandemic time. It was a perfect time for writing something since we all had to stay home. It took me about a year to write the stories, then another year for illustrations and editing, formatting, etc. I’m still working on the rest of the series and a new series - Astro Pals, which is basically a sequel to the Zodiacland series and will be picture books like Ninjago. 


Were their experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book?

Absolutely. I hope my child can grow up understanding the importance of those good values. People may have different beliefs, and people may question you, challenge you, or even reject you, but what’s important is that you have to believe in yourself and be a guardian of your own values. It’s not easy. We all compromise ourselves sometimes for various reasons, but we should always remember what makes us who we are. 


What scene or section did you have the most fun writing?

The part where Princess Luo, the dragon girl, was pushed down into The Deep and dreamed about her parents who had passed. It is a heartbreaking moment, but she was able to rise - in the dream, she felt a push, as if some strength imbued by her parents; and in reality, it was her friends who invented a way and worked together to save her. Both are love - different kinds of love that each of us needs to gain strength.


What challenges did you overcome in the writing this book? 

Believe it or not, in 2006 when I first came to the country, I could barely speak English. But I had the most fun in school during my first two years studying music and film production. I still think it's a bit crazy for me to write English books one day, but I did it anyway because I really want to, and I'm eager to tell stories, share my life experience and put some international perspectives to kids of my son’s age. To me, language is a technical thing that can be perfected by edits. It's the content and the messages in those stories that truly matter.

If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?

A great return-to-school gift for your kids. They can read by themselves or parents can read for them at bedtime. Good for both boys and girls.


Where can readers find out more about your work?

Sign up on the website www.thezodiaclandworld.com, or follow me on Bookbub and Amazon author page (@LoreleiTong) to stay tuned. A lot of new and fun stuff will be available soon, stickers, key chains, plush toys, journal books, etc. Another way is to subscribe The Zodiacland World (@Zodiacland-LoreleiTong) on Youtube, because our audio book will be featured there when it becomes available!