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Swoon Author Kelly Zekas: From Acting Like a Writer to Becoming One

When I was six I was a fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream. I didn't have much to do, but I was really into the costume and I liked running around pretending to be something else. And so I told my parents that I was going to be an actress.

I never stopped saying that. I said it every single time I finished a school play, every time I was rejected from the local theater's musical (I cannot sing. Or dance. Not even a little.) and I said it when applying to colleges with fantastic acting programs. There was nothing else I wanted to do—nothing that would make me happy. 

At acting school orientation, this wonderful teacher stood up and said, "If there's something else you can imagine doing, you should do it." I think he was speaking to the fact that acting is very hard, has a lot of people pursuing very few roles, asks so much of you, and is a career where you will hear “no” a lot more than “yes.” I took him seriously and regularly asked myself if there was anything else I could imagine doing. The answer was always no.

Until three years ago.

When Tarun and I got the call from Swoon Reads, we were shocked and thrilled. But I think it was a little different for me. I had enjoyed working on These Vicious Masks with him, and of course was so excited—but I had never once thought of myself as a writer. I was an actor who co-wrote this one thing and I wasn’t sure if I had any other stories to tell.

Three published books later, I am learning to say that I am a writer. That isn't to say I don't constantly feel like a huge fraud and imposter and it's definitely not to say that I will not have a complete meltdown when I write a book without a coauthor, but I ultimately had to make a choice. With a day job, I didn't have time to pursue both acting and writing. I was spreading myself too thin and disappointing everyone. When I realized I had to make a decision, it wasn't even difficult. I picked writing, and I did so happily. Easily. With relief.

It's very odd to wake up in your late twenties and realize that you have a new passion and goal. It took me time to realize I would rather see a play I wrote on stage than act in someone else's. My head and notes are full of ideas for books, less so roles I want to land.

I haven't fully quit acting and I suspect I never will. But I'm going to go ahead and embrace writing. I’m going to remind myself that it's okay that it wasn't my life-long dream. It doesn't mean I love it less, or am a “fraud” or any of the other things my insecurities like to tell me. It just means I found it a little later. Writing is one of those unique things where people come to it in so many ways and each path is valid. Whether you’re coming to writing at 10 or 30 or 70, it might just mean your writing is all the richer for it.

Author spotlight

Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas

Tarun and Kelly met in a freshman year writing class at NYU and started writing These Vicious Masks a few …

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