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Acclaimed author Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote Fight Club and dozens of other novels, gave a lengthy interview to a major British newspaper, The Independent, where he discusses his writing process and credits his participation in the Landmark Forum with helping to launch his writing career. An excerpt from the article appears here. To read the article in its entirety, go to the website of The Independent.
Chuck Palahniuk Talks Sex Dolls, Strippers and the One Subject He Won’t Write About
by Matt Thorne
While talking to Palahniuk I’m increasingly aware that this is a man for whom rules are very important, something which is reflected in all of his work, whether it’s the sex addiction meetings in Choke or the famous instructions at the start of Fight Club. Palahniuk began his career after attending a self-help course called Landmark, and he tells me that although he hasn’t attended a course in several years, it still informs his attitude to life. But I’m interested in how this incredibly controlled man, who shows up for our lunch in a black Cadillac with tinted windows and likes to write covertly in hospital waiting rooms, quantifies his success. He’s sold over three million copies of his books yet his prose is often savaged by critics.
What’s most valuable to you, I ask him. Is it the reception from your group, audiences at readings, making money, the numbers of copies sold, good reviews, or whether the book gets made into a movie? “No,” says Chuck, “it’s ‘did I have fun doing it?’ because before I ever got paid, before I sold anything, I was thinking, am I having fun doing this, and if not can I do it in a different way so I am having fun?”
But surely sometimes writing should be painful and difficult? Or am I doing it wrong? He laughs. “No, you’re doing it wrong. It’s like sex, if it hurts and it’s painful you’re doing it wrong.”
For Palahniuk, writing is his way of dealing with things he can resolve and exhausting his feelings around them. “Because when you’re writing you can arbitrarily choose which crisis to be upset about and you’re upset about the house burning down in the story so you don’t have to be upset that the plane was cancelled or the food got burned or the dog pooped in your hotel room…”