I'm Chuck Palahniuk, author of DOOMED... AMA!
I've been to Hell and I'm back. My new book, Doomed, features a series of electronic dispatches from the Great Beyond and now I'm here to answer your questions from Purgatory, I mean... Earth.
Check out DOOMED and to join me on my "Adult Bedtime Stories" tour (it kicks off on Monday) here: http://smarturl.it/DOOMEDreddit
EDIT: Here, thank you, is the 'out' I need. It's nine o'clock, and I've been keyboarding for 3.5 hours. Writer Union rules require that I stop and drink some alcohol. Thank you, everyone including the masturbator, for hanging out. Tomorrow, Oct. 4th, I'll be doing a Spreecast with Chelsea Cain at 6:PM PST. We'll follow that with a Facebook Q & A at 7:PM. Please know, my heart also hurts. My heart. But booze and pills are calling. Good night. Sleep well, my beloveds.
You're welcome. And the package probably says more about how brilliant your daughter's letter was than how decent I am. And isn't it fun to exceeeeeeed people's expectations? I love that.
What does that mean? IDDQD ?
You've stumped the panel.
Hi Chuck, I've actually wanted to ask you this question for a while now. Your books all seem to have a "chorus" element, a phrase that gets repeated multiple times throughout each book. For instance, "Give me... Flash" in Invisible Monsters. They always tie everything together really nicely, and I think they're one of the most interesting elements of your writing. How do you decide what that particular phrase is going to be when you're writing?
Thanks for noticing. I love how people use standard phrases for getting past awkward moments in conversation. My generation uses "Whatever" and "Anyways..." for those transitions. But I also appreciate how individual peer groups create their own stock phrases that reinforce their group identity. When an awkward silence falls, my Catholic family says, "It must be seven minutes after the hour..." because of the belief that Christ died at that time and all talking falls to silence out of respect. I'm told that Jewish people say, "A Jewish baby has been born" when such silent lull occur. So to mimic this human habit/tendency/need I've tried to invent transitional choruses specific to my own characters.
My question: If you could meet any of your own characters, who would it be and why? What would you plan to do for the day?
My Comment: The first book I ever bought was Diary. I hunted a woman down in a parking lot and asked her what she was reading. I noticed her giggling and reading so intently in the store, I just had to know. I wanted to be interested in a book like that. You did it for me. You opened the curtains to the world of reading for me. Thank you for being an amazing writer and answering our questions!
Any character? Hands down, it would be Pygmy. I'm always haunted by the idea of a character from a country and background that no one would understand. Some kid from a blood-soaked home town, now having to live among bland office people talking about American Idol. Pygmy and I, we'd spend our day creating some huge surprise for a total stranger. Just random acts of scary-big nice. Define that as you wish.
Hi Chuck, I've had the honor of meeting you a few times and your advice has always been invaluable. My question is, with all of your popularity and literary fame, do you find yourself hesitant to make new friends? Are your current relationships, the ones you've maintained with fellow writers, sufficient? If they're not I'm available to fill the void.
Good question. You also overlook (bless you) that fact that I'm older and less likely to stagger out of the house in my sodden diaper. Yes, my writer friends of 20+ years are good company, but they won't live forever. I'll let you know when there's a vacancy in the Inner Circle.
Hey Chuck, Portlander here.
Found a jar with your tonsils. How much you want for it?
Put it on Ebay. Better yet, take it to the Antiques Road Show.
What do you use as a bookmark?
Old airplane boarding passes. It's heartbreaking to open an old book and find the residue of past book tours or magazine assignments. And that impulse -- to press souvenirs in books, like flowers -- was a big aspect of 'Doomed.' I'm charmed whenever I discover something another reader has flattened between pages. Something you could never do with an Ebook. So that, those souvenirs, became an important element of 'Doomed.'
What is your favorite harsh criticism for your work you've ever received?
My favorite? The angry stranger in Chicago who demanded "Do you masturbate to Brad Pitt's picture?!!"
Oh, that the New York Times could just be that honest.
What was the most difficult book you've written?
I wrote a memorial album and history about my father's life and death and had it published privately, just for family members. It was torture. But that's a hallmark of the important tasks: they suck to do, but you're happy you've done them.
I'm a huge fan, especially of Haunted. I love your sick sense of humor.
What's your favorite curse word?
Maybe it's not a curse word, but I love when gay men called their buts "manginas." So foul. So wrong.
Love your work, thanks for doing an AMA. Was there a definitive moment in your youth that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
What is your biggest source of inspiration when planning a new novel?
To begin a new novel, I look for the biggest problem in my life that I can't solve or tolerate. Something that drives me nuts, but I can't fix. Then I find a metaphor that allows me to explore the problem, exaggerating and expanding it beyond reason. I build it up to the worst scenario possible and then find a way to solve it. By the time the book is done, I've exhausted all of my emotions around the original problem. Whatever it was, it no longer bothers me. And typically, during the time of writing, the problem has resolved itself. It's like magic. Try it. It will keep you alive in this world of bullshit.
I don't have a question. Just wanted to say Hi and thank you for being awesome.
Hi back. Stay awesome.
I've had this question several times while reading your books.
What the fuck?
I had that question all through "The Notebook."
Your name is pronounced paulanick, right?
And since I have some extra room, here, I'm shouting out to Niki Mousikos and her class. Thank you for the World's Biggest Greeting Card. But I'm curious why all the students referred to my first book as "Fight Night." Hey, just asking...
I'm probably one of your biggest fans, Choke has been a life changer and I'm addicted to your books I have two questions:
1. Would you ever come to Mexico?
1. Is Victor Mancini really addicted to sex or is he (as i've been thinking lately) addicted to the attention?
Sure, I'd come to Mexico. Why not?
And Victor is addicted to getting intimacy and affection -- the people who save him -- without having to reciprocate. He's a pig, but a damaged pig. And he's so conflicted about his mother. Gosh I'm glad this is fiction and not memoir or autobiography. It is fiction. Don't start thinking I'm a selfish pig. (oink)
Which one of your books aside from Fight Club and Choke do you think would have the smoothest transition to film?
Easy one. 'Lullaby' It's a linear quest story with lots of room for the characters to unpack their backstories.
What is your opinion on the Federal Reserve's decision to continue quantitative easing at $85b per month?
Sigh. I remember when I thought bonds would rescue us.
What do you consider inspiration when it comes to your writing?
Ask yourself: Where does it hurt?
My heart. My heart hurts..
Here, thank you, is the 'out' I need. It's nine o'clock, and I've been keyboarding for 3.5 hours. Writer Union rules require that I stop and drink some alcohol. Thank you, everyone including the masturbator, for hanging out. Tomorrow, Oct. 4th, I'll be doing a Spreecast with Chelsea Cain at 6:PM PST. We'll follow that with a Facebook Q & A at 7:PM. Please know, my heart also hurts. My heart. But booze and pills are calling. Good night. Sleep well, my beloveds.
Hi Mr. Palahniuk! Thanks so much for joining us on Reddit tonight. It's a pleasure having you.
So my question is quite random, so please bear with me. I had a high school English teacher named Mal Ellenburg. He raved about you and claimed you both were friends, and also had some pretty good memories together. Is this true? From what he used to tell us, you're quite amazing!
Help me out here. Understand that I take Ambien by the truckload and often don't recognize myself in mirrors. How did I know Mal? That's a name I ought to remember. No offense. My mind is like a steel sieve.
Hi there Mr. Palahniuk,
You have an incredibly diverse cast of characters in all of your novels...which character was the hardest for you to write, ever?
What, for you, is the most important part of the process that gets an idea that you come up with from the idea stage to the novel stage?
I'm a HUGE fan of all of your novels! Invisible Monsters remains one of my all-time favorite books and I can't wait for Doomed!
The hardest character? In 'Pygmy' I hated washing the rat down the garbage disposal. ( just lost a thousand would-be readers with that one ) And I hated killing the pug with rabies in 'Rant.' Pugs are the best. In reality I'd allow a rabid pug to eat me before I'd lift a finger to harm it.
The factor that forces me to write out an idea? Fear. Once I realize that the idea's grown too big to retain in my mind, and I begin to forget crucial parts of it. Then, I'm forced to sit and collect them on paper. It's the same reason I eat all my food in the final hour before its expiration date. I hate waste. I hate loss.
I just thought you should know: I've read a number of your books, but I could not get passed the pearl diving story in Haunted. I think that was, at the time, the fourth or fifth of your books I'd read. I have not yet finished it.
Well done, sir.
Forgive me, but that's somewhat pussy-ish of you. God forbid you read the last story I had in Playboy, called "Cannibal." 'Makes 'Guts' look mild. But I have faith in you. Stay strong.
What difficulties did you run into when it comes to writing in the graphic novel format?
You're talking to a babe in the woods. My thanks to Chelsea Cain and Matt Fraction for walking me through the process. And a special shout-out to David Mack -- Congratulations on hitting #1 with your last launch. I forgot to write and applaud you at the time because I'm a jealous dick.
Hey chuck. What do you think about the connection between fight club and Kalvin and Hobbes?
I love it. I wish that comic would come back. Sigh. Why does Garfield never die? Or Cathy?
Is Lullaby your black sheep, or do I just not frequent the right dark street corners of the literary internet to find love for it? It's always been my favorite (it's 3 feet away from me, in the middle of being read for the 3rd time), yet it always seems to turn up much less than your other works in discussions online (I read through your last AMA, and even in that it seemed sparsely represented). One of my favorite books of all time. If I'm wrong, are there any books of yours that you feel a little more protective of than others in terms of their reception? Edit I just saw your FB post about Lullaby being the easiest potential movie adaptation, and even on that post, more than half of the posters jump in with some variation of "They should make [x] instead!"
You touched my heart, dude. 'Lullaby' is among my favorites and it's my friends' favorite by a wide margin. But, no, I don't feel protective of any particular book. My feelings are spelled out in my story "Romance" where a man falls in love with a beautiful woman but all his friends insist she's brain damaged. That's how I feel when my beautiful new baby goes to the New York Times and they announce that it was actually born dead and deformed. Such receptions thicken your skin real fast.
Hi, Chuck! I've wanted to get close to speaking to you for so long. My name's Akira. You've been a pretty big inspiration to myself and my writing for a long while. I'm a young adult and I'm working on a dystopian novel. I notice in your books your characters are amazingly raw. It seems like all of their being is just spread out on the table. What makes your characters remarkable is that they put out what everyday people keep to themselves. Speak the weird thoughts that people think daily but wouldn't tell a soul. Do things everyone wants to do but wouldn't dare to. I feel like you're like them in a sense. your writings are provocative, putting all the cards blatantly on the table and writing things other authors would be uneasy to publish. That essence that's in your characters and your style is a big push for me. I'm truly thankful that I discovered you. But let's cut to the chase - Some questions, if you will. Do you have to think about what you are writing and write draft on draft, or do you let your fingers and pen flow and let your mind do as it wishes with the story? Do you dream some characters? And when you're writing their story, do they stick around in your head and guide you along their thoughts and history like they have a mind of their own? And finally, is there any out-of-norm advice you have for someone as young as I trying to get the thoughts of my novel onto paper and make it real? Thank you for taking the time to read this. I'm so happy for this AMA! Some extra little tidbits I want to add: I'm planning on being Daisy St. Patience/Bubba Joan/Shannon McFarland for Hallowe'en. Soon to work on my jawless facial prosthetic. I also visited a memorial garden today with open buildings of memorial walls. I couldn't help but think of Tender Branson on a ladder stealing flowers. http://i.imgur.com/6BA4oIx.jpg
Such a big question. It's like a whole family of questions. I'll tackle the easy part that I've already figured out -- I write about something that appeals to me, but that I don't really understand why it attracts me. The writing becomes a trick. I fool myself into exploring an aspect of myself that I can't be fully conscious of. Make sense. It's only months or years later that I realize the horrible, personal issues I actually put on the page. It's therapy, but fun. And it always seems to follow its own path, plot-wise. The moment I try to control the story it's ruined. Hope that helps. And I do write dozens (hundreds) of drafts, but they all go to recycling when the final version is done. Leave no tracks. Thank you, muchly, Akira
Hello Mr. Palahniuk. I don't have a question. I just want to say that you are truly brilliant and that I adore you and your work. Invisible Monsters is definitely my favourite. Is it flattering to say that Fight Club caused me to have an emotional breakdown?
Hey, any time I can prompt a breakdown, just let me know.
Just because I have the spare room, here, I want to shout out to "TEKST" for sending the glorious silver-foil print of the astronaut. It's framed and next to my fireplace -- hanging, not with the firewood. It's wonderful, but you -- TEKST -- did not send a phone number so I've neglected calling to thank you.
Big fan of your work. What's your favorite book? The favorite book you've written?
My favorite? Sorry, that's always 'next year's book' but in this case, it really truly is. Next year's book, "Beautiful You," is my stab at 'gonzo erotica.' I'm trying to fuse hardcore handjob books with romance novels. My working title was "Fifty Shades of the Twilight Cave Bear Wears Prada." It's time that slash-type fiction hits the bookshelves.
Ay Chuck! You are great mayne. Just one question, do you listen to music when you write? If so, who?
Music? I used to. When writing pure-ish Minimalist stuff -- which uses aspects of songs: repetitions, choruses, refrains -- I'd listen to one song on endless repeat. Plus the punk esthetic shaped my work: Start loud, run short, end abruptly. Now I'm branching into a wordy modernist style, using fancy-pants words and longer constructions I never could in Tom Spanbauer's workshop. A richer language means I need to really concentrate, so no more music.
For the Adult Bedtime Stories tour, what are you most excited about? How will you decide which PJs to bring?
I'm excited -- and so should you be! -- to be present to the mega-Watt star power of Chelsea Cain and her 'Heartsick' imagination. Add to that the brooding, edgy humor of quiet Monica Drake, and you have an event that hasn't been matched since Irvine Welsh put together his 'Great Scots' tour ten years ago. Years from now people will be lying and saying they were there and wore pajamas and won prizes and were dazzled by how foolish an author tour could be.
Sir, NoPo checking in. How much does the vibe of Portland influence your characters? The rain...
Argh the rain. Forgive me, but it's easier to stay home and work in Portland because I don't feel like I'm missing any giant events. In New York I might be tempted to go out every night and sleep all day, but in Portland I can be happy venturing out one or two nights each week.
As an aspiring writer myself, I must ask this:
Are there any writing tips that have helped you the most? That, or is there anything you feel is "must know" for the craft—that seems to have escaped public consciousness?
For example, Steven King hates adverbs, maligning them as "dandelions" that litter a story. Sort of wondering what your shtick is.
I used to agree with Mr. King, but I've come to embrace adverbs as a useful tool for making horrible scenes funny. Nothing occurs as comic as dramatic, heart wrenching scenes depicted in poor writing. Bad writing makes tragedy into comedy. And adverbs are a useful way to undermine the drama of even the saddest scene. This is why your memoir should be the LAST book you write. If you write about your terrible childhood before you've developed your writing chops, you'll have the world laughing at you.
Been putting my promo stickers all over. Thanks for being awesome! I love your stuff.
DO NOT PASTE THEM ON GRAVES!!! A FEW YEARS AGO SOMEONE STUCK MY STICKERS ON A WHOLE CEMETERY OF TOMBSTONES. NOT EVEN TYLER DURDEN WOULD STOOP SO LOW.. Flaming done.
Hi Chuck! I've read that you worked for Freightliner for many years before making your breakthrough. I'm intrigued; is this a profession/industry that you'd recommend to other struggling writers, such as myself? Thanks!
Let's talk about the glories of technical writing... but first I need a drink. Wait one moment.
Back again. As I was saying, the assembly line work was tedious and exhausting, but it left my mind free to dream up stories. After three years of that I moved to a desk job where I wrote service procedures. This still involved going to a garage and repairing trucks, but it trained me to dissect each physical process or task. Step one: park the vehicle and set the parking brakes. Step two: Remove the two hexhead bolts.... Such writing made me aware of unpacking the physical aspects of a scene -- making characters do things with their hands and feet. And it helped me write comfortably in an instructive mode. Most fiction is descriptive: Susan walked in the room. But you can insert instructive writing for a new 'texture' in the storytelling. For example the bomb recipes and how-to parts of 'Fight Club.' They're all inspired by the countless service bulletins and recalls I wrote for Freightliner. And the job paid well enough that I could attend workshop and write in my spare time. For me, it was a great job. I hated to leave it.
Is it true that fight club is the modern day Great Gatsby?
Yes, that was my model. Three characters. Apostolic fiction. Big fight scenes instead of party scenes. And the blond guy gets shot to death at the end. No kidding. I started with Gatsby as my blueprint.
Mr. Palahniuk, I received one of your signed brains when you spoke in pittsburgh, I almost got the signed copy of your book, I think I blew mine up second. My question, respectfully sir is, as an aspiring writer myself, how do I channel my malaise properly into a valid narrative?
First, how old are you? If you're under 31 years old you should still be gathering story material. Second, what would make the writing process fun? I hated to write. Whipped myself to sit and write. Finally I gave myself permission to only write at parties. I've never been to as many parties as I attended while writing my first three books. People tell stories to entertain, and they're thrilled when you remember and use their anecdotes. So, what would make writing fun for you?
How can one procure a signed copy of Doomed if you aren't coming to my state and now that St. Helen's bookstore closed down?
Check out Powell's.com the Portland independent bookstore. They have signed copies. And bless you for shopping with St. Helens. I miss them something awful.
“When you're an addict, you can go without feeling anything except drunk or stoned or hungry. Still, when you compare this to other feelings, to sadness, anger, fear, worry, despair, and depression, well, an addiction no longer looks so bad. It looks like a very viable option.”
What were you going through during this time? What were you thinking?
Every character has to stand on a platform of rationalizations. That's half the fun of creating someone like Tyler Durden. I might not agree with what he says, but it's fun to wear his clothes and state things from his viewpoint.
Your works have changed my life in infinite and ever expanding ways. (See username) Thank you for being amazing!
What is one thing you have not satirized yet that you are desperate to work out?
Also, if you answered this it would make my life :)
I'd like to satirize the faction of society that calls for curtailing carbon output while crisscrossing the globe in private jets and Hummers. If I hear one more rich person wail about climate change while living in a zillion-square-foot house... boom, boom, boom. (that's the sound of me shooting myself)
Chuck Chuck Bo Buck Banana Fana Fo. . .
You flogged me with that every day in third grade. I am immune.
What do you think of the rise of self-published authors via Amazon? Wouldn't you make a lot more money if you self-published? What do you need a publishing house for other than physical distribution?
Oh, and would you review my novel, heh. People say it reminds them of your books. http://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Failures--Memoirs-Pickup-Artist-ebook/dp/B00F225ZTM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379017038&sr=8-1&keywords=a+thousand+tiny+failures
Tough question. If I were your dog and you died, I'd go and lie down on your grave until I starved to death. I feel an intense loyalty to the old-school trappings of publishing -- my agent, my editor, booksellers. They've become close friends, and to bale on them for a bigger income seems bloodless. The same goes for my writing workshop. I can't contemplate life without Lidia Yuknavitch, Monica Drake and Chelsea Cain.
My daughter had to write a letter to her favorite author in high school, so she wrote to you. You not only responded, but you sent her a package! Filled with so many strange and/or wonderful items, including a rosary bead type necklace with her name in beads. You are AWESOME. (And the teacher went apeshit) Thank you.
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