Nicholas Tanek Interview
The Paperback Writer interviews fascinating indie author from New Jersey, Nicholas Tanek. Nicholas is the author of “The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself,” and “Chipped Black Nail Polish.” He has a bachelor’s degree in English, and has lived a curious life that has inspired his writing. Today, we have him here to talk about it.
I have so many questions to ask you, but I will begin with what my readers are probably wondering. Who are you, and what is The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself about?
Nicholas Tanek: I am an author and I love the creative arts. I also did some ghostwriting and music journalism under different names. The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself is a book that is a tribute to the love of my life who died in 2012 from complications of ovarian cancer and liver failure. I was devastated. We had a romance while we were teenagers but then, broke up. Years later, after drug addiction and abusive marriages, we found each other. Then, we had this beautiful and honest relationship. We expressed ourselves through kink. After she passed away, Hurricane Sandy happened. I used a generator to power my laptop to write the book. We always loved writing and most of my work was for other women who I loved. Throughout the years, Lynn would always say that no one would ever write anything for her. So, I wrote a book for the woman who thought no one would ever write anything for her.
Your next novel, Chipped Black Nail Polish takes place in 1989 and is about you as a thirteen year old who loves weird music. What kind of music did you listen to? Who were you as a young person, versus who you are today?
Nicholas Tanek: Back then, my record collection was still pretty vast. I was very much into The Jesus & Mary Chain, Pixies, Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Felt, The Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine, The Dead Milkmen, Black Flag, and Spacemen 3. As a young person, I was a naïve punk rock skater kid. During that time, everyone seemed to listen to nothing but Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, or hair metal bands. While I respect Bruce Springsteen, I hated all of that other stuff. So, when Kim came into my life, she introduced me to not only new music, but the whole post-punk rock community. Chipped Black Nail Polish takes me back to that time where I am innocent, but just getting a taste of sex and drugs.
Would you recommend this book to young people, and it is a coming of age story?
Nicholas Tanek: Definitely. I lived it at that age. There are definitely life lessons that can be learned. Plus, it can introduce young people to certain elements of punk rock culture that they may not be aware of.
New Jersey is a mecca for great music, and when I think of Jersey My Chemical Romance comes to mind. Have you listened to them?
Nicholas Tanek: Yes, I have heard them. When it comes to New Jersey and music, there is this really cool underground indie rock scene. Bands like Glazer, ex wife, Resounding No, Screaming Females, The Anderson Council come to mind. Of course, Jersey has great bands like The Feelies and Yo La Tengo.
What was the music scene like when you were a young person in the late eighties/ninties? Please tell me about the raves you went to, and a bit about how that plays into “The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself.”
Nicholas Tanek: I went to a lot of indie rock post-punk shows. In those days, many of the shows were in VFW halls and at colleges. Of course, I went to Maxwell’s and City Gardens. I remember seeing The Dead Milkmen at Club Bene. One thing that was cool about the shows back then was that many different genres were on the same bill sometimes. So, you would go to a show to see an indie rock band and there would also be an electronic band, a punk band, and maybe a ska band on the bill. As I grew up, I started going to raves. I would mainly go to NASA, a great club at The Shelter run by a cool guy named Scotto. Of course, there was The Limelight and The Building. Those were clubs though. The illegal underground parties I went to were mainly thrown by The Evolution Vibe Tribe and Storm Rave.
What was the rave scene like back then?
Nicholas Tanek: It was part drug heaven, part new age cyber hippie, part dance party, and part fashion show. I went to my first rave when I was 16. By the time I was 19, I was going to raves and thinking that everyone is so young. Looking back, it was a beautiful and creative time filled with love and lots of good drugs. Dancing while on ecstasy became like a spiritual experience. Unfortunately, much of the ecstasy started to be cut with heroin. A lot of the ravers started doing Special K and angel dust too. Still, I look back at the whole scene with a sentimental fondness. I danced and hung out with Lady Miss Kier and DJ Dimitry from Deee-Lite. They were at NASA all the time. Moby was at The Limelight and NASA all the time too. I remember going to illegal raves under the Whitestone Bridge in the Bronx. This was before cell phones. So, we would get tickets at a record store and then, drive to the Bronx. Then, we would have to call a phone number from a pay phone. It was always busy. When we finally got through, we heard an answering machine announcement with directions to the address. It was fun.
Can you please tell me about Lynn, the woman who inspired The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself. What was she like as a person, and tell us a bit about how she helped you overcome your drug addiction.
Nicholas Tanek: Lynn was a very intelligent woman who had self-esteem issues. She loved The Smiths and loved to read. She also had a sharp sense of humor. Unfortunately, she married an abusive man. He would not only beat her, but would prostitute her out. After our separate marriages fell apart, we found each other again. When we fell back in love, we started to experiment with kink and BDSM. Femdom brought out this beautiful and powerful side to her. We felt enlightened in many ways. The BDSM really helped out with our drug problems. When we got back together, she was still abusing Oxycontin. The kink helped. We focused everything on our kinky relationship. The need for drugs or any other kind of addiction just faded away. She was 37 when she passed away. She had been through so much pain. I still miss her so much.
Now that Lynn has passed, who or what keeps you going?
Nicholas Tanek: Writing keeps me going. Writing The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself saved my life. It also taught me that I need to be around creative people. I need to be involved in the arts.
What is the most exciting scene in The Coolest Way, something that will really pull readers in?
Nicholas Tanek: It’s hard to choose. It really depends on what I find exciting at the time. The Femdom kink scenes are intense, sexy, and sometimes funny. The rave scenes capture a culture and time period which I love. At the core of the book, I think the emotional scenes work for me the most.
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to in current time, and do you play any instruments?
Nicholas Tanek: My record collection is huge. I am always listening to new stuff. These days, I have been playing records by A Giant Dog, Withered Hand, Sweet Spirit, The Ettes, Reigning Sound, The Dandy Warhols, Close Lobsters, D’Angelo, Funkadelic, The Stone Roses, A Tribe Called Quest, Sean Price, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Lush, Roxy Music, T-Rex, Alec Bathgate, PAS/CAL, and many more. I was once in a band with my brother called Enkephalins. I played drums, bass, and the MPC. We were like a weirder and more lo-fi version of Ween.
In my own life, I find that music can be therapeutic and help us through difficult patches in life. Did you have a band that had a similar affect on you?
Nicholas Tanek: Without a doubt. Music can also save lives. I listened to the “Good News” LP by Withered Hand on repeat after Lynn died. The album is so sad and so heartfelt. Sad music makes you realize that there are other people out there who are going through similar pain. It makes you feel less alone.
You have a bachelor’s degree in English from Rutgers University. Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
Nicholas Tanek: I always wrote. Even in 8th grade, I wrote screenplays. They were horrible, but the creative effort was there. I always wanted to be involved with writing in some way. I love words, but most importantly, I love expressing myself in a creative way.
Are you able to write full time, or do you have another job as well?
Nicholas Tanek: Most of my writing gigs are freelance. I have other ways to pay the bills.
Do you have any plans for another novel?
Nicholas Tanek: Yes! My next novel takes place after The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself. It is called Your Kinky Friends and it is about how the New Jersey/New York fetish community helped me deal with Lynn’s death. It’s a very sexual book that deals with many fetishes and real people from the BDSM community. At the same time, it’s not some romance novel and the sex is not masturbation material. It’s realistic and heartfelt. I like to think that it captures the kink community and how people sexually express themselves.
What are your goals as a writer? Is it something you would like to do full time?
Nicholas Tanek: I would love to write full time. I would love to write for television or film. I’m currently working on ideas for television shows. I just have a need to be involved with creative people.
Do you write to share your story, to help people, or both?
Nicholas Tanek: At the core, I have a need to express myself and write something in tribute to someone. All of my books are tributes to people I love. I want to honor them, but I want to do it in a realistic way. Since all my stories are true, I don’t really need to think of an ending or anything. I like to think that the stories are not only unique but universal at the same time. I have gotten many emails and messages from people saying that The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself helped them in many ways. I am honored and flattered by that. If documenting my struggles can help someone, that makes it worth it.
What was your childhood like, and were your parents encouraging of your interests in writing, art, and music?
Nicholas Tanek: My parents were very supportive with anything dealing with the creative arts. They used to take me to Broadway plays and art galleries all the time. My mother was an English teacher and she constantly buys books. At the same time, they are realistic. So, they wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer. There was one point that I was going to be a pharmacist. I got into the Rutgers Pharmacy program an everything. I’m glad I didn’t because I would be dead or in jail if I became a pharmacist. My mother? She is scared to read The Coolest Way. I don’t blame her.
It is nice to interview a fellow New Englander. I am from Connecticut. New England is a place richly packed with the arts. Many actors, writers, artists, and musicians come from here. What is New Jersey like for you, and how were you inspired to write growing up in New England?
Nicholas Tanek: New Jersey has this dirty charm to it. Please do not judge New Jersey on the show “Jersey Shore”. That’s not us. Sure, sometimes, we can be rude. Our style can be a little rough around the edges.
Still, we are very diverse. Like New York City, we have all kinds of races and cultures.
You told me that you love the creative arts. What other creative mediums do you partake in?
Nicholas Tanek: Music. I’m not good at making music, but I love being around people who do. When I was in Enkephalins, we made music specifically to make us laugh when we were high.
Finally, is there anything you would like to share with the readers of The Paperback Writer?
Nicholas Tanek: Read The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself and Chipped Black Nail Polish. Look out for my next book, Your Kinky Friends. Other than that…. Be cool. Be kind and keep an open mind.
Nicholas Tanek Videos
Chipped Black Nail Polish Video
The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself Promotional Video
The Paperback Writer’s Favorite: Nicholas’s interview with radio station WPRB
Learn more about Nicholas and chill out to bands like My Bloody Valentine and Toy Love
Nicholas reading from “The Coolest Way To Kill Yourself.”
A Podcast with Nicholas
Links to The Books!
Nicholas Tanek on Goodreads
To purchase “The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself.”
To purchase “Chipped Black Nail Polish.”
More to Look Forward To
The Paperback Writer’s book reviews of Moonheart, and Jurassic Park.
In the very near future, The Paperback Writer will read and review The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself, and Chipped Black Nail Polish. She is very excited, because she loves to read about the lives of authors.