In The Spotlight: Author Nicholas Tanek, Interviewed by Divine

Nicholas Tanek is an American ghostwriter from New Brunswick, New Jersey. He graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor's degree in English.
Nicholas Tanek grew up as a New Jersey punk rock skater kid who lost himself in the early 90’s New York City rave scene. After years of drug addiction, he got his life together when he was reunited with Lynn, the love of his life, before she died at the age of 37. Instead of choosing negativity, he chose creativity. Losing Lynn inspired him to write his first book, The Coolest Way To Kill Yourself. There is quite a bit of kinky sex, drugs, and music in the life of Nicholas Tanek and he has some unique stories to tell. 

What inspired you to start writing?
Nicholas Tanek: Well, I always wrote and made up stories since I was a kid. I love film and television. As a child, I would pretend and act out my own movies. I wrote screenplays too. Recently, what truly inspired me was the love of my life. Lynn died at the age of 37, right before Hurricaine Sandy hit New Jersey and New York. I was devestated. So, I wrote a book titled The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself in her honor. No one commits suicide in the book. It’s a metaphor on multiple levels. Once I wrote the book, everything fell into place. Because of The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself, a new world opened up for me. I met so many fantastic people. This inspired me to write a prequel called Chipped Black Nail Polish. That book is a tribute to the very first love of my life. It’s a true coming of age story about accepting yourself and embracing eccentricity.

How long have you been writing?
Nicholas Tanek: All my life... ever since I can remember.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Nicholas Tanek: Write. Just write. Get words on the page. Even if you write 10 pages of garbage, you may get a beautiful and perfect sentence. Take that sentence and make something from it. And... for the love of everything cool in this world, BE ORIGINAL. Please write something original and from the heart.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Nicholas Tanek: Sure. But, I do not start unless I have the whole story in my head. Once I start, I get this high. It is the only thing I talk about. I cannot wait to get words out of my head and onto the page. For me, it is best to have most of the story in my head. Also, I write true stories. I just change the names and label it ”fiction,” so that makes things easier. I do not have to make things up. Since it is all real, I just have to pick the best parts of my past that tell the story the best way.

Who is your favorite author and why?
Nicholas Tanek: Everyday that changes. I do like Hunter S. Thompson.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Nicholas Tanek: I think there has to be honesty. I am not afraid to write about my past. My past is filled with hard drugs and kinky sex. Many people are either ashamed or are obsessed with keeping a certain image of themselves. I just put it all out there. There are so many douche bag male authors who play  ”alpha dom” and they do not let themselves be vulnerable. Hell, in The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself, I write about how Lynn would put me in women’s lingerie and lock up my cock in a male chastity device.  I also included intimate details about my drug addiction and my depression.

How do you develop your plot and characters?
Nicholas Tanek: All my stories are true, so the characters are all real people.  Putting them on the page is not that difficult. The challenge is making sure they are three-dimensional on the page.

What comes first, the plot or characters?
Nicholas Tanek: Like I said before, everything is true. Still, if the characters are not interesting or relatable, then the plot falls apart.

Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.
Nicholas Tanek: It is a true coming of age tale that takes place during the 1989 New Jersey punk rock / hardcore scene. It is a tribute to the very first love of my life. Kim was this wild post-punk girl who was very troubled. She was older and kind of just took me and threw me into this wild world of the indie New Jersey punk scene. She had severe emotional issues. She ended up running away from home and I never saw her again. Still, she taught me to embrace my inner weirdo and be proud of myself. Actually the whole group taught me that. Diane was a lesbian. Quinton was this very tall gay black man. Lisa was what they would call a summer time lesbian. In 1989, there was a lot of homophobia and racism. Even though I am not gay, I am for gay rights and I think it takes courage to come out. Actually, being very good friends with gay people helped me understand what the LGBT community goes through. They also helped me appreciate the beauty of individuality and the power of expressing yourself.

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Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell us about?
Nicholas Tanek: I may have another book in me. It would be a sequel to The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself. It would be about the New York / New Jersey BDSM fetish community. So, it would be about embracing sexuality and kink.  So, it will include the whole spectrum of BDSM and sexuality. It will not be some romance novel exploiting BDSM. It will be a real story that embraces and celebrates the beautiful variety and sexuality of BDSM fetish culture.

What are you reading now?
Nicholas Tanek: The Confederacy Of Dunces

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?
Nicholas Tanek: Hunter S. Thompson was a writer who was a journalist who put himself in the story. I love that. I like the absurdity of books like In Watermelon Sugar. Richard Shannon wrote a very non-religious yet spiritual book called The Book of Peace. I did tons of drugs when I was a teenager. I remember being completely sober but feeling high when I read that book.

How do you come up with the titles to your books?
Nicholas Tanek: The titles are all metaphors. The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself works on multiple levels. In one way, I was dealing with suicidal thoughts and depression. I figured that the coolest way to kill myself was to do what I want and express myself how I wanted. At the same time, the love of Lynn changed my life. So, the coolest way to kill myself was to give into love. The old me died and I became reborn. It was not through religion or therapy. It was because of love. Chipped Black Nail Polish is more of a metaphor about image verses reality. Someone can look a certain way and look cool. Then, you look closer and see the weakness and tenderness in them.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Nicholas Tanek: When I saw the words on the page.

Describe your writing space.
Nicholas Tanek: It’s a huge mess of a computers, televisions and an endless amount of records.

What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Nicholas Tanek: Making sure that I can be proud of it. As embarrassing as some of the moments I write about are, I always read them and think to myself, ”That’s good.” Still, this comes after editing. Editing is hard work, but my editor, Melissa Blair and I make it fun. We honestly believe in the project so, it does not feel like work.

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
Nicholas Tanek: I am so irrational that when I get inspired, nothing else matters. It’s all I can think about. It’s all I want to talk about. It’s all I want to do. So, I will cancel plans or reschedule important things just to write. I don’t mean to be rude. I just feel alive and good about myself when I am writing. I feel like I have a purpose.

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What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Nicholas Tanek: I need music all the time when I write. I need a lot of it. While writing Chipped Black Nail Polish, I listened to a lot of My Bloody Valentine, Galaxie 500, The Wedding Present, 2.3, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The Dead Milkmen, Ween, Roxy Music, Felt, and many other bands.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Nicholas Tanek: Wouldn’t you like to know? Nah, I’m kidding. When I am not writing, I am either a corporate zombie, doing something creative, or giggle babbling with others.

What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?
Nicholas Tanek: Two things. First, I feel alive and that I have a sense of purpose. When I write, I do not feel ashamed to be some indie punk rock slaker skater music obsessed kinky weirdo who used to be a drug addict. Second, I was surprised how people reacted to my work. I am truly humbled and honored. I do not have a huge following, but my fans are so cool. They are beautiful, intelligent, and open-minded people.
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How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Nicholas Tanek: I have written two. The first book, The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself is extremely emotional, brutally honest, and almost has this epic scale since it takes place over the course of 20 years. It is extremely personal because it is a tribute to the love of my life who passed away. Chipped Black Nail Polish is a prequel to The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself.  The youthful energy and the punk rock feel of Chipped Black Nail Polish is very special to me too. Chipped Black Nail Polish a shorter and tighter book. I think it is a better written book. Still, The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself is a book that was a beautiful experience to write and will always be my favorite.

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?
Nicholas Tanek: I talk with my readers every day on Facebook, Twitter, and via email. I like to think of myself as very approachable. If anyone wants to contact me, please do. I have had readers of all races, sexes, sexual orientation, and ages reach out to me. I think it is amazing that one reader told me that my book, titled The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself saved their life. I love my readers.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Nicholas Tanek: A writer, an actor, a comic,  a director... basically, someone who was doing cool creative things with creative people. I am doing that now. It only took 39 years.

How do you do research for your books?
Nicholas Tanek: My books are from my life. So, I talk with people from my life. I listen to music that I listened to when those events happened. I also watch many films. I try to be very introspective. I think that if I am honest with the reader, then the reader will connect with me.

Chipped Black Nail Polish  by Nicholas Tanek
The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself  by Nicholas Tanek


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