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Leanne Yong


Leanne is an Asian-Australian YA author who speaks about writing with your unique voice. She also enjoys talking about game and puzzle design, as the owner and designer at acclaimed Sydney escape room Next Level Escape.

Where were you born?

I was born in Singapore, and although I moved to Australia when I was five, it’s left a lifelong mark on me when it comes to food! 

What other jobs have you had?

I used to work in IT as a business analyst and now my main job outside writing is an escape room creator. I get to work in the game narrative space, build sets, and create props for my business, Next Level Escape, that make use of theatrical interaction and unique puzzle mechanics.

What themes are recurring in your work?

A lot of my works revolve around the diaspora experience, whether it’s interrogating it down in the context of contemporary or fantasy fiction, or simply having diaspora characters exist and be main characters. A lot of my work also revolves around what it means to be ‘enough’ as a person in a variety of contexts. A therapist would probably have a field day with my writing!

What have been the highlights of your career?

The biggest highlight in my escape room career has been having all our our games nominated by enthusiasts as some of the best games in the world, with two of them making it as finalists!

As for my writing career, having my novel published with Allen & Unwin has been such an incredible journey! I spent over ten years querying and on submission with six other books, and to finally achieve my dream of traditional publication has been something that has me pinching myself.

Where have your works been published?

My debut YA novel, Two Can Play That Game, was published with Allen & Unwin at the start of 2023 and can be found at any good bookstore in Australia or New Zealand.

What are you passionate about?

I love video games, specifically indie games that play with the form and marry narrative with unique game mechanics. It’s something I try to emulate in the escape rooms I create! I could talk forever about what makes good puzzle design, or designing for the medium you’re working in. I’m also really passionate about character arcs and satisfying endings for narratives, no matter the medium!

Haven’t I seen you before?

Maybe you’ve seen me on escape room panels at PAX, the biggest gaming convention in Australia. Or if you’re old enough, maybe you saw me win an electric guitar on a kids’ after-school game show called Wipeout. Who knows?

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