Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
The first Swoon Reads tandem! Two authors who want to be immortal. 🙂 The people behind the kick-ass romance set in Victorian London, These Vicious Masks!
What is your full name?
When is your birthday?
Kelly – April 11
Tarun – February 9
Kelly – Ice cream
Tarun – Cake
Kelly – Purple
Tarun – Black
Kelly and Tarun – Rose
Kelly – Currently, Light Me Up by Ingrid Michaelson
Tarun – Stardust by Irene
Favorite TV show?
Kelly – Currently, UnREAL
Tarun – The Knick
Favorite place to read and/or write?
Kelly – Anywhere and everywhere. The subway, my bedroom, a sofa, a cafe, etc.
Tarun – From the comfort of my dining room
Kelly – Indiscretion by Jude Morgan
Tarun – Persuasion by Jane Austen
Who are you when you’re writing?
Kelly – Someone who HATES writing
Tarun – Grumpy.
Who are you when you’re not writing?
Kelly – Someone who LOVES writing.
Tarun – Anxious to get back to writing.
Which do you prefer more?
Kelly – Probably a mix of both.
Tarun – I like that sweet spot where I just finish something and I’m about to start something new.
What drives you to write more?
Kelly – Deadlines.
Tarun – Other people’s art.
How often do you experience writer’s block and what do you do to get out of it?
Kelly – I don’t, really, because we work off an outline. Sometimes if we hit a snag it’s because we are trying to make the character do something they wouldn’t. So we have to go back to their motivation and character.
Tarun – Every once in a while I experience writer’s block. I usually set the problem aside to think about and move on to writing another part.
Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your work?
Kelly – No
Tarun – Yes
Do you like making outlines when you write, or do you prefer to start from scratch and work your way from there?
Kelly – I probably wouldn’t if it weren’t for Tarun, but I have to admit it works well!
Tarun – I end up making outlines for everything. Books, scenes, relationships, character arcs, conversations.
If you could do both at the same speed, which would you prefer: Writing on paper or typing your words? Why?
Kelly – I love typing. I have terrible handwriting and grew up writing on computers, so it feels the most natural to me.
Tarun – I like both. Paper I use for first drafts so I don’t go back and overthink what I wrote. Typing I use for editing later drafts.
What is the best writing advice that you could share with us?
Kelly – I like to remember this quote from Chuck Wendig when I am sitting around hating my first drafts: “Writing is when we make the words. Editing is when we make the words not shitty.”
Tarun – Read like a writer. Constantly ask yourself why you think something works or doesn’t.
Of all the things that you’ve ever written (poems, essays, short stories, novels, etc.), which one is the most special to you?
Kelly – Without a doubt it is These Vicious Masks, which we have shared with the world already!
Tarun – I second that.
ON THEIR BOOK
What inspired the idea of your first book with Swoon Reads?
Tarun asked Kelly if she wanted to help write a young adult novel about 10 years ago now and we decided to combine superhero powers (Tarun loves comics) and a historical setting (Kelly loves historical romance) for a new world in Victorian London.
What message would you like your readers to learn from that book?
We don’t generally write books with a didactic message in mind. We love when readers discover messages on their own through their connections to certain characters or moments.
What is the greatest challenge that you have encountered in the publishing world and how did you overcome it?
We queried for a very long time before finding Swoon Reads. We didn’t give up and years and years later we found a home at Swoon. We feel very lucky and are so glad we kept going even after many rejections.
ON BOOK DISCRIMINATION
How would you define book discrimination?
Kelly – This is not something I have deeply considered in the past, but probably not picking up a book based on the cover or description. Maybe I have read something that sounds similar but I didn’t like in the past, or the cover just doesn’t make me think the book is my type of story.
Tarun – Not giving a book a chance because of preconceived notions about it.
How do you feel about it?
Tarun- I go back and forth. I definitely do this, avoiding books I suspect I won’t like. Sometimes when I finally read them, I’m proven right. But other times I’ve forced myself to read books I never would have considered and ended up loving them. And then there are those even more confusing books that I dislike the first time I read, and adore the second time. You just have to be open to anything, I guess.
Kelly – Pretty much exactly what Tarun said. It’s always interesting when I pick up a book I don’t think I’m going to like and then love it. It’s a good reminder!
What do you think is the cause of book discrimination?
Time and/or money. A reader can’t read and buy everything, so they need to draw the line somewhere.
What would you do against it?
Tarun – Just being very aware of the reasons I decide to read a book or not. If I start noticing patterns in what I’m choosing, I try to deliberately break that by reading something that sounds very different.
Kelly – Exactly!
Fill in the blanks. More people should read ________ by ________ because ________.
More people should read The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie because it is utterly kick-ass.