Nicholas Tanek came of age in the early ’90s, a skater kid from New Jersey who listened to East Coast punk bands like The Dead Milkmen, The Dead Kennedys and Sonic Youth. Tanek’s musical tastes eventually expanded to include groups such as My Bloody Valentine, The Stone Roses, The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Smiths, and when he was 16, he went to his first illegal rave in New York City. It would prove to be a pivotal moment in his life.
Tanek, a graduate of Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in English, found himself staying in his parents’ basement in the days after Hurricane Sandy ravaged coastal New Jersey in October of 2012. With a generator powering his laptop, he reflected upon his life, analyzing the relationships that had shaped him. And these experiences, set against the backdrop of the rave scene, were the inspiration behind Tanek’s first book, The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself, a tale of love, hedonism and heartbreak that was published in 2013.
In 2015, Tanek published a prequel to The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself entitled Chipped Black Nail Polish. And he is currently working on a new book about the New Jersey BDSM community. To learn more about Tanek and his work, visit thecoolestway.net and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Why did you decide to write The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself?
Lynn was the love of my life. She passed away in 2012 from complications of ovarian cancer and liver failure. It devastated me. We had such an open and honest relationship. BDSM brought us even closer. Kink helped us overcome drug addiction. After she passed away, I wrote the book as a tribute to her. It spans our teenage years in the 1990s rave scene to our adult lives in 2012. The book is filled with hard drugs, kinky sex, and an endless amount of music references. I wrote much of The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself when Hurricane Sandy hit the East coast. I had to plug my computer into the generator. I was determined to write a book in her honor. At the same time, I had to be honest and vulnerable. So, I had to include all of the drug use, the degradation, the crime, and the kink.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing this book?
Logistically, the editing. The book is very long. My editor and I worked hard to make sure that it came out right. Many things were taken out. So, the editing was the most difficult process, but my editor is awesome. She is not your typical editor who just accepts a manuscript and edits it. We do it together and have a lot of fun, drinking wine and listening to music. She is a very important part of my work.
Where do you think you’d be today if you had never been introduced to the rave scene?
I would be a part of some other scene. Before the rave scene, I was in the New Jersey punk rock scene. I write about it in my other book Chipped Black Nail Polish. My new book takes place after The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself. It is called Your Kinky Friends and it is all about the New Jersey/New York fetish community. My point is, I was always part of some kind of community. Perhaps, if it was not the rave scene, I would be interested in the comedy scene or some other type of music scene more.
Can art come from happiness? Or is the best art always destined to be inspired by sadness, loneliness or melancholy?
Can art come from happiness? Definitely! Look at children’s books. Many of them are a celebration of life. Richard Shannon wrote a wonderful book called The Book of Peace, which is a celebration of peace. It is wonderful and helpful. As sad as my books can sometimes get, they are about the happiness that was experienced at one point in my life. It’s also relative. You can find happiness in very dark places.
How did you initially start working as a ghostwriter?
It started out working for publicity firms. I did a lot of music journalism. I would write press bios for rappers and indie rock musicians. It grew from there and became a freelance thing. Then, I helped out with some biographies.
What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?
Write from the heart and be original. Do something different. The market is flooded with books by authors who write what they think will sell. Look at all the garbage that was inspired by 50 Shades Of Grey. It’s annoying. I love kink and BDSM, but many of those books exploit the culture. They do not represent the culture well at all. Everyone is just jumping on the bandwagon. We do not need another billionaire stepbrother vampire werewolf dom book.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
I’m not finished with any of these books, but I started reading The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. My awesome PA gave me The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson. I am also enjoying Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon (who was in Sonic Youth).
Are there any contemporary bands or musicians that you particularly enjoy?
Too many to mention, but recently I have been listening to A Giant Dog, Sweet Spirit, The Ettes, Reigning Sound, Close Lobsters, Withered Hand, Kurt Vile, Superchunk, Glazer, Resounding No, LCD Sound System, and many more.
What would you like to do that you simply haven’t gotten around to yet?
Ride the equator. I do not mean that in the literal sense. I would like to travel the world more.
What are you working on next?
My new book is a follow up to The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself. It’s a tribute to the wonderful and wild people of the NJ/NYC fetish community. It is called Your Kinky Friends. Lynn is back in flashbacks. Kevin is back. Even my dog, Mokey, is back. I’m proud of it. The book is about how people use sexual expression to try to deal with loss and depression. Plus, it is a wonderful snapshot of the community. It is a celebration of kink. The fetish community is not all dark and dangerous. We are fun people. Of course, the book is very honest and emotional. The sex in the book is not there for masturbation purposes. The book is a love story, about losing someone you love and trying to find yourself again. It’s not your typical romance novel. At the same time, I’m curious what the lawyers of the publishing company are going to say. I think the cool people will be interested in it. I’m looking forward to when it comes out. Stay tuned!