While he’s best known for such novels as Fight Club, Lullaby, and Choke, writer Chuck Palahniuk has lately been teaming with visual artists, first with his graphic novel Fight Club 2, and then with his adult coloring book Bait: Off-Color Stories For You To Color. Though in emailing him about his second coloring book, Legacy: An Off-Color Novella For You To Color (hardcover), he inadvertently revealed that no, he will not be writing the next Star Wars movie.
Photo Credit: Allan Amato
Let’s start with the plot. What is Legacy: An Off-Color Novella For You To Color about?
It depicts a misguided douche bag who has no idea of his place in history. His destiny. He inherits a bonsai tree from a father he never knew existed, and is forced to live his life outdoors, devoted to keeping the tree alive. At first his motivation is the fact that this ancient tree is worth millions of dollars, but gradually he learns it’s worth more than money.
What was it about this story that made you think it would work well as a coloring book. Or was it that you sat down to write a story as a coloring book and Legacy is what you came up with?
The story came first, but I could never bring myself to publish it. The character’s fantastic journey from boorish cretin to selfless hero seemed…too mythical. Too storybook ending. Don’t mistake me for George Lucas. My only solution was to embrace that quality of the story and present it in a child-like medium: A coloring book. That cuts the profundity down to a manageable size.
For the art, you again worked with Steve Morris, who did some of the illustrations for Bait, as well as Mike Norton. What was it about their drawing style that made you feel they’d be right for Legacy?
Consider the esthetic rules of coloring: Shapes must be closed. Lines must be bold, to delineate each color field. And the composition should be dense with “coloring opportunities,” i.e. patterns and details. Both Steve and Mike can create the perfect type of tight line drawings. And they could confer and agree upon how each element should look. That mutually agreed upon visual vocabulary gives the book a consistent style. For a story about the loss of ego, that quality was perfect.
That said, they’re also excellent artists. As is Duncan Fegredo, who created the cover art and also illustrated one of my favorite stories from the previous coloring book, Bait.
Aside from the book, Legacy is also being adapting into a musical production by the Bushwick Book Club, which will do this show in Brooklyn, where they’re based, Los Angeles, and Portland, which is up where you live. And you’ve said you’ll be at the latter show, giving away prizes and organizing games. What was it about both Legacy and the Bushwick Book Club that made you think this was a good idea, and that they were the right people to do it?
Hey, I’m just along for the ride. After years in the Cacophony Society, I can appreciate a good grass-roots event. Burning Man started as such. As did Santa Rampage. My hat is off to Bushwick for taking the initiative to create off-beat, non-corporate entertainment. The bands Scissor Sisters and Panic! At the Disco have created music inspired by my books, that always delights me.
So is your plan to continuing making these coloring book novellas, and if so, how many more do you have planned at the moment?
Whoa. Let me get through the next six months, then we can discuss more books. In May I have a fat novel called Adjustment Day launching. It relates to Fight Club the way Atlas Shrugged relates to The Fountainhead: a longer, fuller exploration of similar ideas.
During the in-between time, I’ll be writing short stories, and if they warrant another coloring book so be it.
Finally, you’ve written novels, novellas, short stories, a comic book, and two coloring books. Are there any other forms you’d like to explore? Maybe a movie or TV show?
Don’t forget my travel guide [Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon] and essay collection [Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories].
To be honest, I dream of writing a play. My book Snuff began as a single-set play, but after a disastrous table reading I gave up. There’s something about the challenge of live theater — the limits of space, time, actors — that goads me to write something. To collaborate with actors and technicians and make an entire world happen in ninety minutes would be incredible. It must feel god-like to just keep throwing live Spider-mans into a crowded audience.