My interview with Chuck Pahlaniuk is now online at Writer's Digest Magazine:
Here's the lede, and a few excerpts below:
THE WD INTERVIEW: Chuck Palahniuk
Shock And Awe
by Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Controversy rides Chuck Palahniuk's back like bad weather, which is exactly how he likes it. When he tried to get his first novel, Invisible Monsters (then titled Manifesto) published in the early 1990s, some editors secretly loved the dark novel about a model who's shot in the face, but they shied away from acquiring it. Frustrated and rebellious, the Portland native embarked on an even darker book. The result was Fight Club, a novel about fist-fighting, anti-corporate power and identity, which rocketed him from obscurity to success and then fame when the book was adapted into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.
While critics are still uncertain of what to make of 42-year-old Palahniuk's unique blend of dark, irreverent and discomforting fiction—labeling him a "shock writer"—his fans are so passionate, they've organized "The Cult" website (chuckpalahniuk.net), where they act as his unofficial PR team, staunch defenders and cult of worship.
Though Palahniuk claims he still isn't sure he's made it as a writer, his 10 books (two nonfiction) have sold more than 3 million copies, and at least three more of his books have been optioned for films, with Choke set to begin filming this year.
For a man who writes about violence and sex in unabashedly graphic terms, the writer himself is disarmingly soft-spoken, even shy, and extremely private about his personal life. When we spoke, his new novel Rant had just been published and was garnering harsh reviews from critics. But Palahniuk is a testimony to the aphorism that there's no such thing as bad publicity. Even as critics pan him, his books continue to rise effortlessly on the bestseller charts.
Here are a few excerpts:
DO YOU FEEL YOU GET ENOUGH CREDIT FOR THE HUMOR THAT'S IN YOUR WORK?
My workshop laughs a lot. My editor laughs. I have a secret goal with my editor—he has asthma and uses his inhaler, and after I send him a new manuscript, I'll have his assistant phone me and tell me how many times he had to get his inhaler out while reading a draft. It's my secret laugh meter.
YOUR WORK CAUSES PEOPLE TO FIRST LAUGH AND THEN CRINGE.
That's the idea, the juxtaposition of those opposite states. Tom Spanbauer, who taught me to write, said you have to make them laugh and then, as soon as possible, try to break their hearts.
DO YOU THINK YOU'LL EVER WRITE A SWEET STORY?
I started to write a children's book about a little boy whose mother dies. After coming home from the funeral, his father leaves him alone in the apartment, and he finds a phone number on a business card that says: "Ladies for all occasions." He phones up and says, "I need a mother," and a jaded escort girl shows up thinking he's a pervert but ends up having this sweet afternoon with this 6-year-old boy after he's just buried his mother. As a children's book, it didn't go very far.