About two weeks ago, I finished reading The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself by Nicholas Tanek. I’ve never read anything so real, so raw, and so genuine with nothing held back. The things that the author went through on his way to becoming the man he is now are simply astounding.
There may be drug experiences and crazy behavior from the punk and rave scenes to breaking the law, but it is a tale about an undying love between two people on its deepest level. It reminds us all that it is never to late to change or to love. Though it is over 400 pages, do not be intimidated by the book’s length. It is an easy read, and it is more than worth the investment of time.
If you are a person who is looking for inspiration or a catalyst to spark some change in your own life, this book is for you. I have written many, many reviews during my time with RUckmakers, but I have never given anything a five-star rating. Today, that has changed.
Below is my feature with the author about his book and life. Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment at the end of this piece.
“True love is constructive, not destructive.” – Melissa Blair, editor of The Coolest Way To Kill Yourself.
“She always thought, ’No one’s ever going to write anything for me. No one is ever going to write a poem for me. No one’s ever going to write a story for me,’” author Nicholas Tanek said of his inspiration for his debut book, The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself.
Tanek was talking about the love of his life, known in the story as “Lynn.” Though all the names in the gut-wrenching story of his life and personal progression have been changed, including his own, one thing has not. That is, his inspiration—the love of his life.
Make no mistake about it, this isn’t your typical Hollywood love story. Tanek was what society would describe as a deviant, both sexually and socially. He was already having sex and experimenting with drugs in his early teens. However, the unorthodox relationship he had with Lynn at age 16 would progress later and save his life.
“After our paths crossed again, we fell in love and we had this very unconventional, wonderful relationship. Then, she passed away. Hurricane Sandy came, and I was surrounded by death,” Tanek began. “I decided to write something for the girl who felt no one would ever write for her,” he said of his inspiration.
After years of drug abuse and loving the wrong people, Tanek was fortunate enough to rekindle the relationship and take it a step further. It was through this relationship that his life began to come back together.
“I got clean. It wasn’t through religion. It wasn’t through psychotherapy. It was through love. It was through a relationship, and we both did it together. That’s something really rare. But at the same time, writing this book opens up a lot of wounds.”
Lynn helped close those wounds. She helped him get off drugs and open up. Still, she was gone. Tanek knew he had to figure out a way to remember his love and find the creativity he enjoyed as a young writer.
“I’ve got to do something. I feel empty. I don’t want her death to be in vain. I want a document saying that this woman was amazing. She was totally weird, crazy, and unconventional, but she was amazing, beautiful and wonderful, and she loved me,” Tanek thought before writing the book.
But getting started was a challenge in itself. How would he write something so dark and painful yet enlightening and life-changing? And where would he start, knowing the tragic outcome?
“I knew it was going to be an emotional journey. I knew if I was going to do it, I would have to be hardcore. I would have to look at myself and my past and meet every situation head on. I knew I was going to cry when I wrote this. I knew I was going to cry when I read it, and I’m glad. I’m glad I have those emotions in me.”
Being that the book is something of an autobiography, Tanek knew it had to capture everything—from his drug years as a self-described “monster,” to a man who married the wrong woman before finding Lynn again, to his path toward true love and redemption.
“The point of the story is the fact that you have to love people that love you. I was a fool for not recognizing that. Once I did, which took me so long, I had the most fulfilling relationship I ever had in my life,” he said. “Loving someone and having someone love you will change you. The coolest way to kill myself was to love.”
The monster was dead. And though Lynn was no longer around, she changed Tanek forever. According to the Edison born writer, the lessons he learned from opening himself to love stick with him to this day.
“The coolest way to kill yourself is to really just give into love. After Lynn passed away, I realized that’s how I’m going to be with all my relationships—professional, family, personal, and romantic. If you love me, I’m going to love you.”
Though Tanek is a changed man, the Rutgers alum had a lot of obstacles ahead before the book was eventually accepted by Outskirts publishing—a self-publishing company. The lawyer from Outskirts said she enjoyed the book, but also said it was “dangerously teetering on pornography.” Aside from content, Tanek made a mistake that attracted attention to the book within his social circle.
“I accidentally sent it to my ex-wife. My ex-wife sent it to my brother’s wife—the rough, rough, rough draft, which was filled with much more hardcore stuff. She read it and she said, ‘I can’t put it down. I read it in one night,’” the 37-year-old recalls being told.
“I got phone call after phone call because of my ex-wife sending it to other people. I got death threats. Her brother was like, ‘You’re dead!’ That was a perfect example of when I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ Even my mother was like, ‘What is this book you’re writing?’”
Aside from these things, another obstacle was Tanek’s memory. After all, the book spans about two decades. The drug abuse during his younger years made it difficult to recall some of the events of the past, among other things.
“I forget things. I wouldn’t have been able to write this book if it weren’t for a very good friend of mine—Melissa Blair—who was very adamant about the editing and the continuity of it,” he admitted. “Physically, for example, my liver is not in great shape. Emotionally, I’m not as mature as I’d like to be. I do feel very lucky that I do have the second chance. Any long-term drug use will have a negative effect.”
Despite having regrets, Tanek said he doesn’t allow himself to dwell on them. Besides, he said he is a new person. He even has more appreciation for life as well as the things he always loved.
“I appreciate life more. I appreciate the people who love me more. I appreciate music, and I’ve always loved music. I appreciate creativity. After writing this book and going through the process, I appreciate holding a book and everything that went into it.”
Tanek kept this appreciation in mind when writing the book. Because of this, he wanted the book to feel intimate. More than that, he wanted the reader to feel a connection with his work.
“The writer and the reader have a relationship. As a writer, I invested time into telling a story. As a reader, that’s precious time. You could be doing anything else, but you’re choosing to read what the writer is writing. I wanted it to feel like I was telling the story to you one-on-one, because that’s what a story is.”
It is this connection that Tanek hopes the reader feels while reading the book. Plus, he said he wants to inspire and help people with his writing.
“I hope it does something positive for people, as dark as it is. I hope people don’t take the title the wrong way. Overall, it’s a book about love and redemption and positive relationships.”
In order to inspire and help people, the author had to figure out a way to be uncommonly honest. To do so, Tanek created his current pen name, after the lawyer suggested some of the book’s real life characters may threaten legal action upon its publication.
“It was a way I could be more myself. I could use a pen name and be one-hundred-percent honest while wearing a mask. Then, there’s the legal aspect. But once I decided to use the pen name, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I could always say, ‘Hey, it’s fiction,’” he said through a laugh.
Nicholas was a name he always loved, and Tanek is a word of Polish origin meaning “immortal.” The writer, who is also a ghostwriter, said it is the perfect name for a man who was once obsessed with suicide and the emotion by which it was caused. This complete change is indicative of the writer’s personal change after falling for his true love—Lynn.
“If you’re open minded and your heart is in the right place, it can change you. That’s what I want to get across. After Lynn passed, I was changed. If you really truly love someone and you let yourself go, good things can come from it. Both of our lives were severely messed up, but we had each other. Things started to come together. It was a ripple effect.”
Nothing shows this change and love more than Tanek’s cause. Half of the book’s proceeds will go to Lynn’s daughter—who is now without a biological mother—upon her 18th birthday.
“Her daughter is now an orphan. I’m still in her life, but I don’t have custody of her. I saw her on Christmas, and I see her about once a month. What I wanted to do is any profit I make, I wanted to take fifty percent of the profits and allow her to get it when she’s eighteen. But I don’t want her to know it’s from me,” Tanek said with emotion evident on his face.
The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself has been received well publicly. The book was given five stars from all 12 of its Amazon reviewers, shown here.
Tanek is also working on a prequel novella to The Coolest Way to Kill Yourself, which compliments the book while adding background to the early parts of his life. He has recently finished the rough draft, and will be working to release it in the future.