Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk - interview sample

What is the first and second rule of writing?

The first rule is that you must love the task of writing so much that selling your work is an unnecessary bonus. The second rule is to love the task of writing so much that once you’ve gone through the awful process of publishing and promoting a book you still want to go back and write another.

I try to imagine myself in position of a starting writer and my first novel is rejected. Same thing happened to you with Invisible Monsters. How destructive was this to your confidence?

Destructive? It was nothing of the kind! I was in the game, writing and being read by editors and agents. I was doing the work that professional writers do. This phase of my career was filled with joy because I could see that anything was possible if I would only continue doing what I loved to do. Powerful people had expressed their faith in my talent, and I was eager to prove them right and to dazzle them. Every writing project was a bold experiment. It might succeed or fail, but I knew that I’d never stop writing until I did publish a book.Too many people were supporting and encouraging me for me to feel like a failure.

Fight Club which came after the rejected piece was a success. But you wrote it even darker than Invisible Monsters. What happened?

My writing teacher, Tom Spanbauer, told me to never write „in order to“ achieve anything else. Don’t write to get rich. Don’t write to be loved. Only write to write. After I failed to sell „Invisible Monsters“ I realized I should write just for the joy and adventure of writing. Thus I wrote „Fight Club.“

Watching everyday news I have a feeling that it is in nature of mankind to destroy. What is wrong with people?

No, you mistake mankind for the media. It’s the nature of media to destroy and create fear. Nothing is wrong with people. Nothing is wrong with you until you become aware of advertising, then everything is wrong.

Writing a sequel is always a challenge. If people liked the original piece they are full of expectations. How dit it affect writing of Fight Club 2?

As you’ve stated, a sequel always risks disappointing the audience who loved the original. For that reason I chose comics for „Fight Club 2“. In a third medium – neither a novel nor a film – my sequel would have the best chance of finding its own readership and being appreciated for itself. It couldn’t be compared directly with either version of the original. Besides that, the graphic medium has its own strengths. Through the artwork, it allows for greater description, like a film. But it’s less realistic than film so I can still depict elements that would be too emotionaly taxing if you were to see them in the realistic world of a motion picture. In addition, the graphic novel moves the story forward with the use of panels, eliminating wordy transitions such as „Many hours later…“ In those ways, comics combine the best of long-form fiction and films.

I have always felt that writer is someone hiding behind a computer, someone who writes about people and their lives but does not want to interact with them personally. However, watching you giving speaches makes me feel you are quite a contrary. You like to play games with people. How does it feel to piss people off for a living?

Stop. My job is not to offend people. My training is as a journalist so my stories arise from what the people around me share about their lives. Often a stranger will present the seed of an idea. I’ll take that to a new group and present it, and these new people will discuss the idea and begin to develop it using aspects of their own lives. Then I take the developing idea to a new group and present it so they can continue to develop the theme. Eventually I might take the seed idea through thousands of people – mostly strangers – who each flesh it out by contributing a detail from his or her own life. Thus the story or book becomes an accumulation of many, many people’s lives. Is this not how a real journalist works?