Author Interview: Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas (These Vicious Masks)

The Book

Title: These Vicious Masks
Series: These Vicious Masks #1
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Publication Date: February 9th, 2016
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Superpowers

Written & Video Review


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.

The Authors


Tarun Shanker

Mild-mannered assistant by day, milder-mannered writer by night, Tarun Shanker is a New York University graduate currently living in Los Angeles. His idea of paradise is a place where kung-fu movies are projected on clouds, David Bowie’s music fills the air and chai tea flows freely from fountains.


Kelly Zekas

Kelly is a writer living in NYC. YA is her absolute favorite thing on earth other than cupcakes and she has spent many hours crying over fictional deaths. She also started reading Harlequin romances at a possibly too early age (12?), and still adores a good historical romance.

The Interview

Hello Mr. Shanker and Miss Zekas!

To start off, please tell us a little bit about yourselves. Do you possess a secret talent not many know about?

Sadly, no talents like our characters in These Vicious Masks, but Kelly can pick up most objects off the floor with her toes and Tarun is a pretty fast sprinter.

How do you think your lives would have been like, if you had lived during the Victorian era?

Kelly: I like to think that I would be have been an outspoken miss like Evelyn, but I kinda doubt it, actually. I was always a “good” kid who obeyed my parents (for the most part), so I probably would have tried to learned all the “correct” skills for a lady (painting, piano, household management, hosting, etc) and hoped to marry well. But it’s way more fun to write about girls who will flout convention and rules!


”Evelyn would be a young Rebecca Hall.”

Tarun: Being Indian, I would have probably been under British colonial rule and that wouldn’t have been too pleasant. I also like to think I’d have been rebellious like Evelyn, but I’m definitely too quiet and lazy a person. Maybe I would have rebelled in small, boring ways.

What do your writing spaces look like?

Kelly: My writing space is the subway in NYC, a street corner when an idea comes, and many, many coffee shops. I dislike writing at home (though that certainly happens too!) and find I am most productive when I am out in the world. I think I get energy just from being around other people. When I’m home, I’m too likely to be in pajamas and sleeping.

Tarun: I’m pretty much the exact opposite of Kelly. I need to be comfortably seated at my dining table at home with energizing music on and an unlimited supply of coffee and tea at hand. Also when I get stuck, showers often help me come up with great ideas.

Which scene from These Vicious Masks is your absolute favourite and why is that?

We both enjoy the “definitely not a brothel scene” most. It combines a lot of our favorite elements that are intrinsic to the book: danger, a strange twist in the search for Rose, romance, arguments, secrets being revealed, all while trying to avoid detection and a ruined reputation.



”Mr. Braddock would be a younger Nicholas Hoult.”

In which character did you feel like you poured the most of your personalities?

Evelyn. In a more negative light, we both have impulses to be snarky and somewhat reckless, so we were able to let some of that out in her (and hopefully less in real life!). But we also enjoy creating close friendships like Evelyn does, and we both have spent plenty of time trying to figure out what we really want to do with our lives, where we want to live, and what contributions we want to make to the world. Evelyn struggles with those same questions.

And then, of course, Tarun loved writing witticisms for Mr. Kent and Kelly was unapologetically romantic with Laura.

Did you have to make a lot of research before writing this story?

Certainly! But we both have the unfortunate tendency to accidentally research more than we need, so we developed the plot and characters we wanted first and then did the specific research to make sure things were historically accurate. There were the smaller details of course, like the London geography, fashion and interior decorations, but we also needed to get the exact scientific perspective people in that time period might take to explain their powers or undiscovered diseases, which meant researching things like evolutionary theories and medical journals. We also search the 19th century texts on Google Books to make sure our word choices and phrasings are accurate.

How does it feel like to co-write a novel?

We love co-writing. It can mean a lot of compromise, but ultimately it’s a second person there to bounce ideas off, to motivate you, to boost you up. We also don’t trade chapters or write dual POVs, so we are constantly revising each other’s words. We have spent an embarrassing amount of time arguing over who wrote which line!


”Mr. Kent would be a much younger Rupert Everett.”

What is the best part of being published?

We get to focus on Book 2! Well, that and the feeling of walking into a bookstore and seeing our book on the shelf for the first time. After seven years working on this project, it was a surreal, wonderful moment. Kelly took many, many pictures.

We also have gotten to know an amazing community of bookish people – fellow writers, booksellers, booklovers and more. It’s been incredibly valuable and rewarding.

If These Vicious Masks were to become a movie, who would you imagine playing Mr. Kent (or as I like to call him ‘‘Mr. Brooding Darcy’’) and our courageous heroine, Evelyn?

We like to say that we would want either total unknowns or a time machine to do this correctly. Evelyn would be a young Rebecca Hall, Mr. Braddock would be a younger Nicholas Hoult, and Mr. Kent would be a much younger Rupert Everett.

What surprises does the sequel to These Vicious Masks reserve us?

We are so excited for the rest of the trilogy. You can expect: more powered people, more locations, more kissing, more danger and hopefully Evelyn will figure out what to do with her life!

Interview by Hit or Miss Books.

I hope you enjoyed this interview!

Lola xoxo

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4 thoughts on “Author Interview: Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas (These Vicious Masks)

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