Thursday, June 12, 2014

Blog Tour: The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself by Nicholas Tanek + Author Interview


No one actually kills themselves in this book.

The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself pulls you into the early 90's New York City rave scene, in all its chaotic, psychedelic glory. The narrator grabs you by your wrist and drags you behind two teenage lovers from New Jersey as they tumble through a whirlwind of reckless hedonism that eventually spirals into a dark, devastating world of drug addiction and heartbreak. As a teenager, Lynn cried, "No one is ever going to write something for me."

Nearly two decades later, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Nicholas did just that. The gesture came too late for our unlikely heroine, but his heart was in the right place. A broken heart... but a true love. Reunited after years apart, Lynn and Nicholas embraced their love and sexuality, and embraced each other, despite troubled pasts, despite illness, despite all of their imperfections and mistakes. They shared the kind of honest and shameless connection that few have had the honor of knowing, and most would never understand.

A Word from Nicholas

I think that you will find my book very interesting. It is a very unconventional romance. The love of my life died at the age of 37. She passed away a little before Hurricane Sandy. With a generator to keep my laptop working, I wrote a book for the woman who thought no one would ever write something for her.


Interview with Nicholas Tanek

Carly: The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself is a true story, your story in fact; so that makes it very personal. How difficult was it for you to completely open yourself up to the strangers who read your book in such a way? 

Nicholas: Complete honesty was the coolest way (and the only way) to write the book. When I first started writing, I felt that I had no choice but to be as honest as possible. I owed that to Lynn. Not only did we never lie to each other, but we told each other every intimate detail of ourselves. We shared this brutal yet beautiful honesty with each other. I wanted to have that same level of honesty with the reader. Some people wrote that they get very mad at Nicholas in the first third of the book, but end up loving my character towards the end. Sure, that shows a character arc, but I felt that I had to be honest with myself and the reader. I did many horrible things as a teenager, but I learned from my mistakes. Lynn’s love truly taught me how powerful complete honesty is in every aspect of life. While I was writing The Coolest Way, I experienced a maelstrom of emotions. For the most part, it was quite freeing, cathartic, and therapeutic. At the same time, it was both scary and exciting. I knew people would read this and definitely think differently about me. Some people will be shocked. Some will understand and be proud of me. Others will be furious with me. My ex-wife’s cousin threatened to kill me. That is also where the title comes in. I was going to write The Coolest Way even if it killed me. I could not and would not care what people thought of me or what people would do to me. I had to write this book as a tribute to Lynn. 

Carly: This was a very difficult book for me to read. In part because I grew up during the same time frame and found myself comparing your descriptions of the drug use, clubbing and sexual promiscuity of that generation with my own personal experiences. Being older and (hopefully) wiser now, I look back at the insanity and remember the faces of so many people who didn’t survive. Is this a common response from readers? 

Nicholas: Yes and no. I am in my late 30’s now and I have lost so many dear friends who are my age. Some of them were healthy people who did not do drugs. Some of them were very reckless and lost their lives because of drugs. Anyone who has been in the rave scene or has lived through the 90’s should be able to relate to The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself. Both friends and fans have told me that the book not only brought back memories of that time period, but brought back a variety of emotions that they had not experienced since that time. Many readers enjoyed reliving those crazy experiences, even though, looking back, they realize how reckless they were, and how lucky they are to have survived. The rave scene and the punk/hardcore scene in New York City and New Jersey was something that Lynn and I looked back on with a fondness. The rave scene was so important to both of us, as a beautiful, dangerous, and fascinating time. Sure, there are parties and raves today, but things are so different now. In the early 90’s, there was a kind of punk rock approach to throwing illegal parties. Tickets had to be purchased at a record store. The location was not given until an hour before the party. We did not have cell phones, so we had to call from payphones to get the location. It was always busy and we would have to keep calling over and over again. It was a wild and creative time for everyone involved. Looking through my old rave flyers, my editor remarked on how odd it was to see something like that without a URL printed at the bottom. People like Moby and Chloë Sevigny lived through it and became successful. Many others were lost due to drugs and reckless behavior. My goal was to capture those moments and document the culture of the time period. I am honored when people tell me that I succeeded in doing that.

Carly: Ahh, the memories, the music, the payphones! While I was reading certain parts of this story I kept hearing this song in the back of my mind. Now, I know that it wasn't part of the scene at the time, but I have fond memories of listening to my Dad play the classics like Cale, Clapton and Knopfler when I was small. My love of the original rockers survived the 90's!  

Carly: I’m sure that you were expecting that by writing a book with such controversial topics you would have a broad variety of reader reactions. It would seem to me that this is not a book it’s possible to feel neutral about; that most readers would either love it or hate it. What is the most surprising reader response you received and why? 

Nicholas: I am fortunate enough that most people who read the entire book love it… or at least like and appreciate it. The most surprising reader responses are from people who do not have an open mind or an open heart and do not want to give it a chance. Someone contacted me once while he was reading my book, and he told me that he goes out of his way to find things wrong with books that other people love. Compared to other authors, I may not have that many reviews posted, but they are all real, and most of them are extremely positive. Like other authors, I have a street team of supporters who promote my book because they believe in it. Romance bloggers are very cool. They support writers on their own time and effort. This self-proclaimed "hater of books that are loved" did not like the fact that some bloggers are very passionate and supportive of The Coolest Way. My book is not for everyone, but approaching any creative work on such a negative slant is not cool. I love music, and I have written many reviews in the past. Even if I did not love an album, I would give it a chance, and I would always try to find some good in it. Personally, if I disliked the music, I chose not to review it. My point is that going out of your way to be negative, to me, is just sad. Also, I was surprised by some reactions to the title itself. The title is a metaphor, but for some reason, a handful of people have taken the title literally and one blogger even bad-mouthed my book without knowing anything about it. I know that my book is not for everyone, and I am open to criticism, but not from critics who have not even given it a chance.

Carly: At times I found myself struggling to emotionally connect with this story and found myself questioning if it might have been because men and women can view the same scene and see it completely differently. If Lynn were to write this same story what do you think the biggest difference would be between her perception of this time and yours? 

Nicholas: Wow. That is an interesting question that I have considered myself. In my heart, I do believe that Lynn would have loved the book. It is a grand gesture, a tribute to her. My love for her cannot be denied. Because of the honesty about myself in the book, Lynn would think it would be only fair for me to be honest about her. She was very cool that way. I have no doubt that if she wrote her side of the story, the story would be similar. Still, she would definitely expand on the times when I acted like an arrogant teenager. I am sure that she would argue, ‘It would make the character arc that much more effective and people will love you more by the end.’ 
She would also probably expand on certain Femdom details when the sexual dynamics changed and I was sexually submissive to her. She took a great deal of pleasure in exercising sexual dominance over me. I took out quite a bit of the sexual details because I did not want to be exploitative. Keep in mind, if she was writing the book, she would be writing these things about me with a deliciously evil smile on her face. She would know that I would know that I could not do anything about it either. Either way, she would win. My heart will always be hers.
Carly: I felt that at its very core, this is an amazingly complex love story between two people, but I also came away with the sense that it was also about learning to love and accept yourself. One of the things I have learned in my own life is that people have to be comfortable with themselves before they are truly able to love another person fully. Do you agree and why or why not? 

Nicholas: I absolutely agree with you. Once we were truly honest with ourselves, we were able to be truly honest with each other. That honesty enhances every single aspect of the relationship. I had to be honest with myself about my addictions, my insecurities, my sexual fetishes, my failures, and my fears. We both did. That elevated our relationship to a beautiful level of trust. Sex became kinky and we felt as if we were more ‘enlightened’ than many other couples. We put the ‘bond’ in bondage. Our lives changed in many ways. That bond, which was created from that honesty, helped us improve every single aspect of our lives.

Carly: You've set the bar exceptionally high for yourself with this story. Do you have another book in the works and will it be similar to The Coolest Way or are you going to try branching out in a different direction with your writing? 

Nicholas: Thank you. I have a prequel that is in the rough draft stage. The rough draft is done. Now, we have to edit, proof, edit, proof, edit, and proof more. It is certainly not as epic, but it is true. It also does not span over the course of 20 plus years. It takes place during the summer of 1989. My next book is more of a supplement to The Coolest Way. Basically, it is a tribute to Kim, a punk rock / goth girl who was my very first love. I write a little bit about her in The Coolest Way. The new book is about me being a punk rock skater kid in New Jersey and the summer before I go to high school. It is a love story. Like The Coolest Way, it is filled with sex, drugs, and an endless amount of music references. Before I went to raves, I went to punk and hardcore shows. I was a very awkward and shy kid, who was also a music snob. While everyone listened to cheesy hair metal, I liked weird music like punk, new wave, ska, and indie rock. In the late 80’s/early 90’s, the so-called ‘alternative’ music was only played on MTV on a show called ‘120 Minutes’. It was on once a week. So, all of the people I knew did not like or know about the stuff I knew about and liked. Kim knew! Kim was my very first love. She knew so many cool, weird, creative, and interesting people. She changed me from an awkward, shy kid to a teenager with confidence. My next book is her story. Thank you very much. This has been a wonderful interview.”

About the Author

Nicholas Tanek is an American ghostwriter from New Brunswick, New Jersey. He graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelors in English. He has been a ghostwriter for over 15 years.
Nicholas' Links

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