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“Friendship, acceptance, and trusting your gut”: An Interview with Tina Wells

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“Friendship, acceptance, and trusting your gut”: An Interview with Tina Wells

“Friendship, acceptance, and trusting your gut”: An Interview with Tina Wells

To celebrate the recent release of Book 4 of The Zee Files series, now available exclusively at Target, we sat down for a Q&A with author Tina Wells to learn more about the craft and intention behind the series.

You’ve written over 14 wildly successful middle-grade books. Tell us what prompted you to write The Zee Files.

I was actually working on The Zee Files as a TV project for my original series, Mackenzie Blue. I thought that the TV show would be more interesting if Zee were a bit older. I ended up writing the books for it first, but I did it with the TV show in mind. 

These books include characters from many different backgrounds, including Zee, a biracial protagonist. How important was/is it for this series to include diverse characters?

Everything I write must be diverse. My intention is to increase the representation of diverse characters in middle-grade fiction. I also want to target at-risk readers and engage them. The world is diverse and there’s no reason why all younger readers shouldn’t have access to diverse stories.

The world is diverse and there’s no reason why all younger readers shouldn’t have access to diverse stories.

Zee is thirteen in this series and at an age when children experience many physical, social, emotional, and environmental changes. What challenges does an older Zee face that she did not in the Mackenzie Blue series? 

Zee’s dealing with a serious change in the environment. She’s gone from a laid-back California school to a stricter boarding school in the English countryside. She also gets diagnosed with ADHD, and we watch that play out over the series. She’s also seeing a therapist, which is so helpful to her, for her anxiety. It was important for me to show my readers that we all have struggles and none of us are perfect. You just have to get the tools you need to help you cope.

In Book 4, Zee returns to her former home in Southern California but notices things feel different than they did before. How is Zee changing as she grows and gains new experiences

Well now that she’s in therapy, she has tools to help her cope with situations, so she’s noticing things and also knows how to deal with them. Her nemesis is sort of ok for her now. She’s actually realizing how much she’s grown coming back home. She also lives away from her family most of the time, so her life is just so different now.

What themes stand out throughout the series?

Friendship, acceptance, and trusting your gut. Zee is growing into the person she’s meant to be and she knows she’s not perfect, but she accepts herself. 

Friendship, acceptance, and trusting your gut. Zee is growing into the person she’s meant to be and she knows she’s not perfect, but she accepts herself. 

The series currently publishes at a rate of about two books per year. How do you find time to write while also running a business? 

Well, I’m lucky that the business I now run is a media company, so I had to figure out how to get the work-life harmony I needed in place. So I split my time between several creative projects in a year and pull in the best collaborators to help me get it done. It’s important to know what I need to do and what I need someone much better suited than me to get done. 

In addition to being a best-selling author, you’re an entrepreneur and business strategist. How has your work in marketing and business strategy influenced the development of the series?

I set a very tight development strategy. I know how to develop my characters and the worlds they live in. I definitely lean into my background in trend consulting to help me figure out what works for the time we’re in, too. And I am always thinking about marketing and brand extensions. To me, each series I develop is its own brand. 

What’s next for Zee after Book 4?

We’re going to dive into life at The Hollows, take another trip, and meet a new character. Things get interesting when Princess Valentine shows up at The Hollows in the next adventure. I can’t wait for you to read it! 

Join Zee in her adventures just in time for the holidays with The Zee Files available exclusively at Target!

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