The tween queen

Tween girls between the ages of 8 and 12 are Julia DeVillers' biggest fans. “I write wish-fulfillment books,” she explains. “I think, ‘If I was the age of my reader, what would I want to have happen?'”

Her middle-grade novels explore “what ifs” like, “What if my parent became president?” (the “Liberty Porter, First Daughter” series) and, “What if I had an identical twin sister, and we switched places?” (the “Trading Faces” series). In a twist worthy of a DeVillers heroine, she writes the “Trading Faces” series with her identical twin sister, Jennifer Roy. Just like their twin characters, the sisters have very different approaches. “Jennifer has index cards and color codes,” DeVillers explains. “For me, it's the computer screen and a cup of coffee, and I write a book.”

Her publishing career took off in 2002 with the nonfiction advice book for teen girls “Girlwise: How to Be Confident, Capable, Cool, and in Control.” “It turns out ‘Girlwise' was a great vehicle, because I became a spokesperson for girl projects,” DeVillers says, “and I try to write very kid-empowering books that are authentic to what kids are going through.”

In her latest book, the graphic novel “Ultra Squad,” the kids literally have powers. When Justice Studios, the new entertainment division of the tween retailer Justice, considered producing a book to sell in Justice stores, DeVillers immediately came to mind. “I started with the company when it was Limited Too,” says Justice president Lece Lohr. “Julia wrote books for us then, and I remember how wonderfully those books resonated with our girls. … It was a natural fit. Julia has so much experience with this market and that customer.”

For “Ultra Squad,” DeVillers says Justice “homed in on the graphic novel idea,” and she created a diverse group of four girls who gain superpowers and journey forth to save Earth from an evil mastermind. Lively, color-popping illustrations by Columbus-based artist Rafael Rosado provide the visuals. Elevate Pictures, a branded content and entertainment company in Columbus, partnered with Justice Studios to produce and publishUltra Squad, making the series an entirely local project. “Julia's ability to be a team player, to work collaboratively, is enormous,” says Elevate Pictures founder and CEO Jeremy Hughes. “She's pretty badass as far as that goes.”

“We need diverse books and inclusivity, so every kid can see pieces of themselves in the books. … This is a book that hopefully anyone can be inspired by,” says DeVillers. She then adds, “And it's really cute.”