After scribing scads of subversive and darkly hilarious novels, Chuck Palahniuk surprised and delighted fans in 2014 by diving into comics. “Fight Club 2,” a 10-issue Dark Horse Comics series played sequel to Palahniuk’s “Fight Club” novel, while acknowledging the polarizing movie of the same name, and its authors conflicted relationship with his most famous character.
Now, the iconoclastic cult figure is tackling new creative challenges, penning his first screenplay for a movie adaption of his “Lullaby,” to be directed by Andy Mingo, and spinning his short stories into a collaborative adult coloring book called “Bait.”
Fundraising for the “Lullaby” movie is still ongoing through Kickstarter, and with mere hours to spare, CBR spoke with the writer about the his involvement in the production, how he feels Kickstarter is changing the art scene, and how “Fight Club 2” led to “Bait.”
CBR News: The last time we spoke, you detailed the creative leap from novels to comic book writing. I’m curious how you compare screenwriting to those disciplines.
Chuck Palahniuk: Thank goodness I tackled comics before screenwriting.Â Writing the script for “Fight Club 2” forced me to visualize every panel, communicating mostly in nonverbal ways and keeping dialog to a minimum.Â Translating that skill set to screenwriting meant compressing the novel down to its most dynamic scenes.Â Talkative, clever blah-blah I trashed, leaving just the story that moves along at steeplechase speed.Â
The novel presents its story through newsman Carl Streator’s perspective. Is the same true of your screenplay?
It’s still through Streator’s POV, but not overly so. Beyond the set-up, most of the characters are introduced. The plot and power reversals and discovery process will occupy the audience’s attention, and Streator becomes just one of many compelling characters.
“Lullaby” focuses on a culling song that silently kills those who hear it. What do you and the film’s director, Andy Mingo, have in mind for how that song will sound in the movie?
Ah, this will be like my work with the artists for the coloring book, “Bait.” I might have a vague idea, then Andy will suggest a better one, then I’ll suggest improvements, then he will suggest details I’d never have the nerve to attempt. In this way, we’ll embolden each other to finally create an effect neither of us, alone, would have the imagination or daring to attempt.Â
The pitch video speaks about the importance of making “Lullaby” outside of the influence of financiers whose demands could compromise your vision.Â The KickstarterÂ promises donors can weigh in on “production decisions” as “virtual producers.” Are you at all concerned about the role such crowdsourcing could play in production?
Hey, that will be Andy’s problem. He’s a big boy.
How do you think Kickstarter culture/crowdsourcing is influencing art?
It’s an interesting system of patronage. But instead of the church or the aristocrats or the NEA (National Endowment of the Arts), it’s people. I love that. More than ever a project succeeds on its own vision and merits instead on the politics behind government funding. I know brilliant artists and writers who can’t write grant applications or play kissy-face to rich fat cats — those creatives starve. Conversely, I know lousy artists and musicians who can write great grant proposals, and their lame stuff always gets funded. Crowd funding seems to circumnavigate the bullshit.
The fundraising page mentions negotiations have begun with “some amazing cast and crew.” What actors/actresses are being eyed for “Lullaby?” And may I suggest Tilda Swinton forÂ Helen Hoover Boyle?
Â You may suggest anything you like.Â Go ahead, suggest Channing Tatum sit on my face. Only Andy Mingo will decide.Â
Dark Horse has just announced your adult coloring book, “Bait: Off-Color Stories For You To Color.” Are these all new short stories?Â
Yes, and no. One story was published in “Playboy,” but few of my readers will have read it. The rest are new. Plus, the artwork allows me to add extra plot points, revealing events that aren’t in the text. Why waste the imagination of such brilliant artists? All eight stories will be expanded beyond my imagination by the eight people who visualize those stories, and finally, by the readers who color them.
It’s a fascinating concept. As an owner of several adult coloring books, I’ve never seen one that so intensely treats the book as an artistic collaboration between colorist and creator. Was “Fight Club 2″s development a part of its inspiration?
Not to mention that our book is also hardcover and beautifully bound. I’ve yet to see a coloring book so well designed and produced. And, yes, it was an outgrowth of working on “Fight Club 2.” Suddenly, I’m rubbing elbows with these amazing talents. It would be incredibly stupid of me to waste this opportunity. You would not believe how much fun it’s been to work with Scott Allie as the editor. The illustrations take crazy to a new level.
How did “Bait” come about, and what are your hopes for its reception?Â
Here’s a shout-out to Tammie Ison, one of my oldest friends. I saw her coloring, and she explained that it’s the new Sudoku. Even the new Book Club, because people gather to talk as they color. Publishers market the flimsy paperback books as a way to create “legacy art,” so I wanted to create a well-bound, beautiful book worth keeping intact. I wanted stories about parents and kids, but with my kind of shock and redemption. Tammie will get the first copy. Â
What was the directive given to its various illustrators (including Lee Bermejo, Kirbi Fagan,Â Duncan Fegredo, Alise GluÅ¡kova,Â JoÃ«lle Jones,Â Steve Morris, Tony Puryear and Marc Scheff)?
Surprise me. Read the story, and don’t hold back. Beyond that, we enable each other to suggest ever-more startling, upsetting details. Some images are bold, but they’re all beautiful in some way.
What color (of crayon/marker/pencil) do you think those interested should definitely have in stock for “Bait”s October release?
Â Lots of red. Just sayin’. And many, manyÂ colors of red.
What about “Lullaby” inspired you to take on its movie adaptation so personally, co-writing the screenplay with its will-be director Andy Mingo?
My passion over this project stems from my long-time friendship with the director, Andy Mingo. He made a wonderful short film from my story “Romance” and put together the three book trailers for “Fight Club 2.” He’s been married for years to the writer Lidia Yuknavitch, whom I’ve enjoyed working with in our shared writers workshop. She’s even a character in the “Fight Club 2” comic. Ours is such a close-knit creative community, everyone pitches in to help with everyone’s projects.Â
When we spoke a few weeks back, you talked about yourÂ “conflicted relationship”Â with your characters, especially Tyler Durden who has been co-opted in a wide-range of contexts. Is this coloring book an embrace of the fandom that interprets your work in ways you haven’t necessarily expected or intended? Or a surrender to it?
Â Yes — over my entire career, my readers have sent me art projects, mostly speculative, alternative covers for my books. Many of them fantastic. For some time, I’ve tried to convince a publisher to give me an all-white cover that readers could personalize. The “Bait” project is a small step in that direction. My goal is to create one such story collection each year, and push out the envelope more and more.
You’ve crafted novels, comics, a coloring book, and are on your way to making a movie on your terms. What art arena are you considering conquering next?Â
If I told you, I’d have to kill you. Now, call somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows Channing Tatum.
“Lullaby”s Kickstarter ends today, June 16! “Bait” will hit store shelve on October 26.
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