Chuck Palahniuk rose to literary stardom with his debut novel, Fight Club. He went on to become a cult icon when the book was adapted into a movie —Fight Club (1999) — featuring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.
Now, almost two decades later, as Palahniuk returns with a comic book sequel, we speak to him about the iconic movie and his exploration of new forms of storytelling, such as adult colouring books.
When you wrote Fight Club, did you think it would reach the cult status it has today?
I wrote the book as kind of a challenge to publishing. I never believed they would publish it. I wanted to confront them with something that was memorable and upsetting at the same time. I was surprised that it was printed at all.
Why was the sequel written after 20 years?
I never intended to write a sequel to Fight Club until some friends, who write comics, kind of pressured me into writing a comic. It seemed like it would be easier to do with established characters that already had an audience. The original story had lasted so long that I felt I needed to extend it.
One of your books Lullaby is ready to be adapted into a film…
That is a little stuck at the moment because Brad has expressed interest in playing the lead. The script is on his desk, but with the ongoing problems in his personal life, we are waiting for them to be settled to have a chance at casting him.
Besides the Fight Club 2 graphic novel, you also recently came out with an adult colouring book, Bait. What inspires you to explore different forms of storytelling?
The answer is my very short attention span. I think, now that I work for myself, I have to make my job increasingly difficult. I have to reinvent storytelling with every story, just to keep it interesting for myself. I am constantly trying to write stories that occur more like music, because I love song lyrics. Even with a book like Fight Club, I wanted it to have aspects in the story that would stay in the reader’s mind like song lyrics do. I think Fight Club is one of the most quoted books of the twentieth century. People quote the rules so often. And that’s part of my effort to make fiction occur like songs.
Do you feel writing a graphic novel is harder than writing a book?
It’s harder and it’s easier at the same time. There are some aspects, like the transition from one moment to the next, that are managed automatically in comics. Everything is in a panel, and a panel is moving in a series. So, you don’t have to worry about moving your character through from one moment to the next. That makes it easy to write a graphic novel. But then again, it’s difficult to surprise someone once they turn the page. When they see two facing pages, they pretty much see everything that’s going to happen. So to stage your surprises, you have to pace them so that they only happen when the page is turned. And that’s very difficult when compared with a novel.
You’re a character in the graphic novel, Fight Club 2. How did that happen?
I wanted different realities to intersect in the novel. I wanted dream time — where people fell asleep and dreamt. Then I wanted to have a current reality, in which the characters lived. But I needed at least one more meta reality where the creators existed. I wanted to write myself and my fellow writers into that reality. It seemed like a fun thing to do; to have flattering pictures drawn of ourselves. Also, I’ve always tried to include all my friends in my books. Even when they were making the Fight Club movie, I would take groups of my friends to watch the shoot.
You’ve said that Fight Club was written as a reinvention of The Great Gatsby. Which are some of the other books that inspired you to write?
That would be any kind of road trip novel. Mostly, I am inspired by short story collections — Tama Janowitz’s Slaves of New York was a revelation to me when I read it. I also like Denis Johnson’s collection, Jesus’ Son, as well as Amy Hempel’s collection, and the Korean-American writer, Nami Mun’s works. Nami has a collection called Miles from Nowhere, which is just extraordinary. Fight Club also started as a collection of short stories, but the characters had so much in common that it was easy to make it into a novel.
What’s the development on Fight Club 3?
I am working on it, but I want to make it original and shocking. I want to make it different from anything anyone has seen in a comic. And I know it’s going to take some time to come up with enough ideas to do that. So, I’ve written most of it, but I need to go back and throw most of it away and replace it with much stronger content. In a way, I kind of held myself back with Fight Club 2, because I wasn’t sure my readership would accept a graphic novel. Now that I see that they are enjoying it, I’d like to really go crazy with Fight Club 3 and use more outlandish ideas.
Reportedly, you are also writing the screenplay for Lullaby. What are some of the challenges of screenwriting?
It was much easier to write a screenplay after having written a graphic novel. The graphic novel helped me tell a story visually without much dialogue, and move through time in a visual way instead of a narrative manner. It might have been difficult had I not done Fight Club 2. I think writing a short story is the most difficult.
Any advice for young writers?
I always tell young writers, “Don’t write to be liked, write to be remembered.” Because if something is immediately accepted by people, it usually disappears. But if a book is not liked, it will stay in people’s minds until the public taste changes; until people themselves change. It (the book) will have a longer life and greater impact by being remembered. It took Fight Club 20 years to be accepted, but some of the books that were popular at that time have disappeared now.