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Meet the Authors of THESE VICIOUS MASKS, Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas!

It’s an exciting time at Swoon Reads HQ. We have three brand new manuscripts to publish and FOUR new authors! Tarun and Kelly are the first co-authors for Swoon Reads, and if you’ve read These Vicious Masks  you know that they make a great team. We were swept away by their memorable characters and unique world building, and we hope you fall in love with their story too. Remember, we’ll be leaving the manuscript up on the site for a limited time before editing begins if you would like to read and comment. Here’s a short greeting from Tarun and Kelly, and be sure to read their Q&A below to get a taste of what makes them so swoonworthy. If that’s not enough Tarun and Kelly for you, check out their websites at www.tarunshanker.com and www.kellyzekas.com, or follow them on Twitter @tkshanker and @kellyzekas.

When did you know you wanted to be writers?

Tarun: Probably sometime during my sophomore year of high school. I never did too well in English class, but I grew up completely obsessed with movies and believed that being a film critic would be my absolute dream job — until I started a review website and found myself getting anxious whenever a movie disappointed me and all I could do was complain about it to the three visitors of my website. I wanted to fix the things I didn’t like and see the movie I had imagined and hoped for in my head. So I channeled all of that into writing what ended up becoming the worst screenplay in the world (and as I, sadly, later discovered, a rip-off of Meet Joe Black), but by that time, I was deep into my high school TV production department and had too many other ideas backed up in my head to even consider quitting.

Kelly: For me it came a bit later in life. I always liked English but definitely didn’t think of myself as a writer. I always thought I wanted to be an actor. But in college I realized that so often I wanted to be the one writing the scenes I was acting in. So I took a play writing class and loved it. But I think it took working on this book to realize that I really can do this … and that I really love doing it. I cannot wait to get started on the next book and finish up the play I am working on.

How did you come up with the idea for These Vicious Masks?

Kelly: I honestly don’t remember exactly. It was about 6 years ago, we were in college and had no idea what we were doing at the start. Tarun told me he wanted to write a YA novel and asked me what I would most want to read (since he knew I love YA so much) and suddenly we were writing it together. He was into comic books and I was into historical YA, so it seemed natural to combine our interests into Victorian superheroes.

What is your writing style? Is your process different since there are two of you? 

Tarun: It definitely is different. Writing can be such a lonely task once you get past the honeymoon phase of the idea and you’re just left with constant self-doubt and second-guessing that tests your endurance. Writing with a partner is like having a trusted beta reader with you for every step of the process. They give you new exciting ideas when you’re stuck, they make you justify your crazy half-baked ones, and most of all, they are just as invested in the story as you are. Whenever you consider giving up and switching to another project, they encourage and/or guilt you into finishing. (Kelly: lots of guilting).

What also helped us specifically was that our writing styles and tastes are different, but balanced. Screenplay writing made me super-focused on outlining and plotting, while Kelly is much more of a pantser and gets caught up in fun ideas. If something in the story wasn’t working, we’d have two completely different approaches to solving it. Also, we both had our own personal pet scenes and characters that would get extra attention from at least one of us. Kelly’s love of romance novels made her really particular about the romantic moments, while my love for action movies made me fixate on every detail of the chases and fights. And if Laura Harding is being particularly ridiculous, it’s probably Kelly’s fault and if Charles Kent is talking a little too much, it’s probably my bad, sorry!

If you could have one superpower from your world, what would it be?

Kelly: Ooooh. Well no character in the book has this power (YET.), but I would pick teleportation. Or time travel! Wait, yes, definitely time travel.

Tarun: Telekinesis, definitely. I can be lazy and have my socks put themselves on, scare people with floating objects, win millions at casinos, catch falling babies, make myself fly… the list goes on. I totally haven’t thought about my answer to this question for years. Not at all.

What is your favorite scene from These Vicious Masks?

Kelly: The make out scene, of course. Evelyn and Sebastian are in a tight spot and then get super angry at each other over who started the kissing even though they both enjoyed it. I giggle every time because I am a shameless fan of characters fighting against their attraction for each other.

Tarun: My favorite is probably a massive spoiler, so I’ll go with my second favorite which is the scene where Evelyn confronts Sebastian at his house, looking for someone to blame for her sister’s disappearance. They both try to keep their argument civil, completely fail, Sebastian decides he’s not having any more of this and tries to leave, Evelyn decides that she’s not having any more of Sebastian’s not having any more of this and tries to grab him and then the world explodes (metaphorically.) It’s fun.

Who would play your characters in a movie?

Tarun: I don’t think we know enough current teenage actors to properly answer this, but this is the list we made years ago to help us imagine the characters while writing, so they are our dream cast if we could change ages or use a time machine to kidnap actors.

Evelyn: Rebecca Hall (though Kelly would much prefer it be an awesome newcomer)

Sebastian: Nicholas Hoult

Mr. Kent: Rupert Everett

Rose: Carey Mulligan

Robert: James McAvoy

Miss Grey: Anna Maxwell Martin

Mr. Beck: Edward Norton

Mae: Alison Lohman

What makes you swoon?

Kelly: Slow burns (have you seen Bright Star? Have tissues handy but oh my goodness.) Love like that … that’s what makes me swoon. Opposites attract. Hate turning to love. Forbidden love. Jane Austen. And of course, compliments on my hair.

Tarun: I’m totally with Kelly on slow burns (after Bright Star, watch In the Mood for Love and use any leftover tissues). Unrequited love is the best and the worst. I’m also a sucker for people covering up their emotions in seemingly contradictory ways, like songs with upbeat music hiding lovelorn lyrics or formal, tightly constructed poems and confessions that are just barely able to contain the speaker’s intense feelings.

Author spotlight

Swoon Reads Staff

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