My interview with Kelly Zekas & Tarun Shanker (authors of) “These Vicious Masks”

A lovely chat I had with the authors of the upcoming YA novel :

“These Vicious Masks”

Coming soon – February 9, 2016. Fun fact – It’s one of the authors’ birthdays!

Vicious-masks_hidden1-534x800

Just look at that cover, guys!

Synopsis :

Jane Austen meets X-­Men in this gripping and adventure-­filled paranormal romance set in Victorian London.

England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes, she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they’re not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive, young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true—and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.


Qs: How and when did you guys meet and how did you decide you wanted to work on this together?

“We met in our mandatory college freshman year writing class! We stayed friends and were both working on a lot of creative projects. Tarun was at school for screenwriting and (Kelly)for acting. But (Kelly) was often talking about great young adult novels and Tarun really wanted to try his hand at that. We naturally fell into writing it together.”

Qs: A guy and a girl working together on a book isn’t something you see everyday – did you hit any rough patches as co-workers? Were there opposing ideas as to how some scenes were going to play out?

“It is rare! And when it does happen, it’s normally something like Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, where the authors trade off chapters. These Vicious Masks stays in Evelyn’s head (it’s first person), but instead of that being an issue for two writers, it actually helped (and forced) us both get a really clear sense of her character and voice.

We certainly disagree about approaches to scenes or even certain plot arcs that one of us wants to put in, but we also trust the other person a lot. We think that’s key– you have to be able to say “No I don’t like that idea” without rancor and the other person needs to know that it doesn’t mean “No I hate you as a writer.” It’s like having a trusted editor/beta reader along for every step of the process. We are 100% honest with each other about what we want to do in the book and the process is usually a lot of back-and-forth pitching each other on ideas until we end up with something we’re both excited about. If there is a REALLY big disagreement, we might refer to our editor to decide. Thankfully, our team at Swoon Reads Macmillan is incredibly supportive and easy to work with. They have never seem phased to work with a co-author team.”

Qs: You don’t see many co authors these days where both of them are debuting their work – and the ones that do so, don’t always make it to the “most anticipated” lists – what made you want to work to on this as a team instead of doing your separate projects?

“When we first came up with the idea, it was based on the two of us having expertise and interests that complemented the other. Tarun was going to school for screenwriting and wanted to try writing a young adult novel for a change, while (Kelly) knew the YA world well. Tarun loves comics and superheroes while (Kelly) loves historical fiction. So when we combined the ideas for the dream novels we might have have written separately, the two genres actually clicked in a unique way. We started seeing a lot of connections between the superhero and Victorian worlds that made us both extremely excited to keep going.”

Qs: Who thought of the story first?

“It’s a bit hazy, since we started brainstorming These Vicious Masks over 7 years ago, but from the beginning it’s been a joint effort with a lot of conversations building on each others ideas. We couldn’t really say who came up with what at this point.”

Qs: The names Evelyn and Rose sounded familiar to me and then I remembered that the female lead in Titianic was named Rose and her mother was called Evelyn – Is that where the names came from or did I just make myself sound like the biggest dork?

“If by “biggest dork” you mean “AMAZING PERSON”, then yes :). We 100% have never made that connection but that’s truly AWESOME. We can’t quite remember how we decided on Rose, but we did specifically choose Evelyn’s name based on its etymology and a certain aspect of her character.”

Qs: The blurb on goodreads say’s that the book is paranormal and another blog/website I came across has it under fantasy, while I see it more as supernatural (even sci fi) since its said to have an X-men vibe – which one is it, then ?

“It’s been tricky trying to give a specific genre because the book can plausibly fit into all of those and it mainly depends on the explanation for the supernatural powers component (whether they are science-based or magic-based). We’d probably be spoiling one of the trilogy’s mysteries if we definitively said whether it’s fantasy or sci-fi, but if we had to go with how bookstores might shelve it, it’d probably go in the paranormal romance section.”

Qs: Is this going to be a standalone or should we expect sequels?

“This is the first in a trilogy.”

Qs: What age groups will this book be appropriate for?

“We think it’s being pitched as 12 – 18, but we think it’s really more like 12 – 104. We would actually probably say that an older teen might like it best.”

Qs: Two “gentlemen” have been mentioned in the blurb, Mr.Kent gives off a Prince charming vibe while Mr.Braddock seem’s darker and more mysterious – it screams love triangle – tell me I’m wrong 😉 !

“NEVER – LOVE TRIANGLES FOR LIFE! No, no, just kidding – kinda. There may or may not be a love triangle, but we promise that we dislike unnecessary, mean, or contrived love triangles as much as anyone. We try very hard not to stumble into the usual pitfalls and think our readers will like both gentlemen quite a lot.”

Qs: Do you, as writers believe in happy endings? …and do you want your characters to have one? – have you decided how the ending will ultimately play out or are you still working on that?

“We love this question. Happy endings are wonderful, but we would probably say we believe in Satisfying Endings most. That’s not to say that we won’t write books with happy endings, but our main priority is to honor our characters and stories with an ending that feels right, complete and meaningful. As for this trilogy, we have a general idea of how it will end, but we’re still working on the details and those often change in unexpected ways. We actually had a different ending in mind for These Vicious Masks when we started it, but somewhere in the process, we found that the story and characters had a different view on the matter ;)”

Qs: This is a common one but, what popular book/books would you say your story is most similar to? – I have to say I haven’t come across anything like it so far but the readers might want to know what they’re getting into!

“Hmm. We would probably say that fans of Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy and the Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series will enjoy These Vicious Masks. And then, of course, any X-Men fans curious to see powers in another era and setting!”

Qs: There are so many titles coming next year!
Why should readers add These Vicious Masks to their tbr (to be read) lists?

“Well, if Jane Austen meets X-Men doesn’t do it for ya, we don’t know WHAT will :). As fans of historical romance and superhero stories, we simply wanted to write the type of book we’d love to read, so it has our favorite elements from the books that inspired it, but with added twists and subverted tropes in ways we haven’t seen anywhere else. We have a really unique world with a badass heroine who will never give up and always fight. We hope you love her as much as we do.”

( I’m 100% sure I will! )


Thank you Miss.Kelly Zekas and Mr.Tarun Shanker for taking out the time to answer my silly mess of a questionnaire. I really appreciate it and I hope we can have more of these little talks in the future! I might bug you again as the release date for the book nears! 😀 …Oh, and Kelly, you’re an absolute sweetheart!


Find the book on :

Goodreads : https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23688792-these-vicious-masks

Amazon : http://www.amazon.com/These-Vicious-Masks-Tarun-Shanker/dp/1250073898

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