Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Tanek, author of The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself.
Tell us a little about yourself – your education, family, etc.
Nicholas Tanek: I am the author of The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself and Chipped Black Nail Polish. I was a punk rock skater kid from New Jersey who got swept away in the New York City rave scene in the 90’s. Although I was doing tons of drugs, I graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in English. Basically, I was a middle class white kid who grew up in Edison and New Brunswick, NJ. I love to write. I love being involved with anything dealing with the creative arts. This includes writing, music, comedy, and art.
What started you on your journey to become an author?
Nicholas Tanek: The love of my life died in 2012. Her name was Lynn and she was 37 years old. We both loved being creative and we loved to write. All this time, I would write poems and stories about and for women. I would get published but she would not. She was very upset about this. She would always say, “No one is ever going to write anything for or about me.” So, I wrote a book for the woman who thought that no one would write a book for her. Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey and I only had a generator. So, I used that to power my laptop. I wrote this tribute for her. At the same time, it became a memoir. It was also very therapeutic for me. In turns, it became therapeutic for the readers too. The book is titled The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself. After that, I wrote a prequel titled Chipped Black Nail Polish, which is a coming of age story about my first love. It takes place in the 1989 New Jersey/New York punk rock scene. The positive reaction to The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself inspired me to write Chipped Black Nail Polish. Now, I have been inspired to write my next book.
What is a usual writing day like for you?
Nicholas Tanek: I usually write during the evenings. I like to be emotionally honest and keep the writing style rooted in whatever emotion I am feeling. I need music. Every part of the book has a song that goes with it. So, I play it while I write the scene. Then, we edit, edit edit. After that, we edit more.
Do you have a specific writing style? Are you a plotter or a panster when it comes to writing?
Nicholas Tanek: I definitely start with a loose outline in my mind. The main aspect is me getting the words onto page. Because all of the stories are true, I know the beginning, middle, and the end. First, I have to get it out of my head and onto the page. Second, I have to make sure the structure works and there is a flow to the work. Finally, the editing makes it all come together.
How much of your work is based on first-hand knowledge? Is anything you write based on real people/events and if so, how did they inspire you to create your work?
Nicholas Tanek: My books are all true. I just change the names and label them fiction for legal reasons.
Do you get writers’ block and if so, how do you overcome it?
Nicholas Tanek: I look at it this way. I only work when I feel inspired. If I am not inspired, I do not want to put out anything. I absolutely love writing, but I only want to write something that I feel inspired about. So, I will go through a period of time when I am not writing, but that means that I am helping other creative people with their creative work. Creativity inspires creativity. So, in my opinion, surrounding yourself with creative people is a wonderful way to overcome writer’s block.
Who are your main influences in the writing world? Do you have favorite authors?
Nicholas Tanek: I like Anais Nin, Hunter S. Thompson, Herman Hesse, Richard Shannon, and many more. I also like comedians who write. Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Chris Gethard, and Julie Klausner are very funny authors. I think Tom Scharpling should write a book.
Are you trade or indie published? How has your experiences differed from your expectations prior to becoming a published author?
Nicholas Tanek: I come from the DIY punk rock mentality. I want total control of my work. I am not in it for money. I write books to create art and because I have a need to be creative. So, I am an indie author. With that being said, I welcome talks with publishing companies, but I would want creative control.
Do you have any regrets as an author?
Nicholas Tanek: In The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself, there was a memory that I wish I included. I was on ecstasy at a rave in Queens during the 1990’s. The fire department shut it down. The Evolution Vibe Tribe asked for one more record to be played. Even though the whole night was electronic dance music, the DJ played “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang. The crowd went wild and danced their asses off because they knew it was the last dance. I wish I included that in my book.
What is the hardest part about being a writer?
Nicholas Tanek: I do not want to hurt anyone with my writing. At the same time, I write from real experiences. So, there are people who I love who may get hurt if I write about them. That breaks my heart. Still, I have an overwhelming need to be honest with myself and true to the story. So, dealing with that is the hardest part of being a writer.
How long on average does it take for you to complete a book, from the first time you sit down to write until it becomes a published book?
Nicholas Tanek: The first book took more than a year to write and edit, but it took a lifetime to live the story.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Nicholas Tanek: Write. Be original. Just write… even if 99% of it is garbage, that 1% may be good. One sentence can change everything. The key is to actually write that one sentence. And, for the love of everything cool, be original. There are too many people just trying to write to make what they think will sell. Be original. Write for yourself and from the heart.
What are you currently working on?
Nicholas Tanek: My new book is a sequel to The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself. It is a tribute to the wonderful, wild, and weird people of the New Jersey / New York BDSM fetish community. It is about how people deal with loss and emotional pain through sex. When Lynn died, I was devastated. So, I used the BDSM fetish community as a way to distract myself and ultimately, heal myself. Although it is a very sexual book, it is not masturbation material. The book is a celebration of kink, but mainly, a celebration of friendship. It is very emotional. Hopefully, it may help very sexual people who are going through an emotionally tough time. The working title is Your Kinky Friends.
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