Bait: Off-Color Stories for You to Color, is bestselling author Chuck Palahniuk’s first ever coloring book for adults, available today from Dark Horse Books.
Bait is both the coloring book debut and the second short story collection for Palahniuk, containing eight bizarre tales, each paired with pieces of colorable original art, nearly 50 in all from artists Lee Bermejo, Kirbi Fagan, Duncan Fegredo, Alise Gluskova, Joelle Jones, Steve Morris, Tony Puryear and Marc Scheff.
The 8.5 x 11 inch hardcover album, with uncoated and white interior paper stock, accompanied by a cover illustrated and colored by Duncan Fegredo and designed by Nate Piekos and features Palahniuk’s provocative and intense writing.
Chuck discussed Bait and his recent graphic novel, Fight Club 2, also available from Dark Horse.
FOG!: When I first heard that you had written a coloring book, I was both surprised and also thought it was a strange idea. But in your introduction, you write a really interesting explanation of why it exists, “ Maybe between your colors, the artists’ designs, and my stories we can create something that endures. Something worth keeping. Let’s create a well-bound book that can sit on any shelf and be available for a new generation to discover and enjoy.” What was the genesis for the idea for the coloring book?
Chuck Palahniuk: Maybe it goes back to the many amazing tattoos I’ve seen inspired by my books. Maybe it was my desperate ploy to eke out one more project with some of the terrific team that created Fight Club 2 in all its variant glory. Publishers are so wary about story collections, maybe I just wanted to hitch a bunch of stories to the shooting star that is coloring books and show publishers that stories can still find an audience.
The book features eight original stories with an amazing line-up of artists providing multiple illustrations for each tale. How involved were you in selecting the artists and did you have any input as to which artist illustrated each tale?
My priority was to work with artists who’d done variant covers for Fight Club 2. People like Duncan, Lee and Joelle. There was a slight glitch with artists who opted out in fear that this project might get them banned from future work on children’s books. My editor, Scott Allie, suggested we include one new name, that would be Alise. Worried that I’d burnt them out with Fight Club 2, I hesitated to approach Cameron Stewart or David Mack, but David got wind of the project and provided the final, crowning illustration.
I read Fight Club when it first came out in paperback, long before the film, and it blew me away. And even though I like the film, I love the book. I also really enjoyed Fight Club 2. Were you a fan of comics prior to writing Fight Club 2 and what prompted the decision to write a sequel for comics rather than prose?
Frankly, I hadn’t read comics since the horror ones like Ripley’s Believe It or Not were cancelled. The original Fight Club book and film were so popular that I didn’t dare attempt a sequel. Then a cabal of writers, including Chelsea Cain, Brian Bendis and Matt Fraction ambushed me at a party. If I was going to tackle a graphic novel, I wanted to depict characters that were already known to readers. And a new, third medium seemed like the best way to revisit the Fight Club story without desecrating the original versions.
Both the film and book have a fervent fan base. Did you feel like you had to service the film fans when writing a sequel? Would you want to revisit the world again in another book or comic?
Service film fans? That sounds so… lurid, but no, I didn’t want to pander to anyone. Cameron Stewart gets chided for being “too cartoony” and I knew that aspect of his work would allow me to depict things that would be overwhelmingly sad in a film. For instance, my army of noble, dying children would never work in the literal world of film. And describing them would drag down the plot in a novel. So in comics I wanted to play to the strengths, the reality and unreality, of this storytelling form – a place films couldn’t go.
Unlike most coloring books, Bait, is in hardcover and intended to be a part of one’s home library; essentially creating a new medium. Would you ever want to see a version published utilizing images colored by fans?
That would be terrific. Still, the glory of Bait is that every volume will eventually be unique, and there’s no correct, approved way to complete the artwork. To ultimately select “ideal” executed pictures might dampen the freedom of future readers. My dream is that people complete the book as a gift for other people. So often what we give is merely a purchase and contains nothing of the giver. Bait becomes a vehicle for the giver to express something to the receiver.
Your work is notable for being both provocative and intense. Do you think that the tone of the stories in the book can be affected any way by how the illustrations are colored?
Golly, I hope so. Whether the stories are colored “realistically” or the Scotch fold-ear cat ends up colored purple, those details will shape the future interpretations of anyone who ever reads a particular copy. I love that.
What do you have coming up next?
A nervous breakdown? A stint in a rehab clinic? Launching two books in the span of four months is exhausting. I’m compiling the stories for a second coloring book, and I’m a few chapters into a new novel, and the film work continues on several fronts, but I’m looking forward to a quiet winter of thoughtful writing and surfing porn.
What are you currently geeking out over?
This is so dull, but I can’t stop. I’m obsessed with the “weight sled” at the gym. It’s similar to the blocking drills players practiced in high school football. You pile a million pounds on a heavy metal platform then shove the whole outfit a hundred feet across an Astroturf-y floor. Turn around and shove it back. It’s grueling and mindless, but addictive. Unlike deep squats or heavy straight-leg dead lifts, you don’t have to focus on perfect form. You just duck your head, drive with your legs and shove the stupid sled. I could do this all day.