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Q&A: Chuck Palahniuk on “BEAUTIFUL YOU”

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Brilliant madman author Chuck Palahniuk (FIGHT CLUB) released his latest opus, BEAUTIFUL YOU, this past October, a twisted tale that follows Penny Harrigan, a low-level associate in a big Manhattan law firm who finds herself a test subject for a line of sex toys to be marketed in a nationwide chain of boutiques called “Beautiful You.” But that’s just the beginning of her story, as Penny becomes an unwitting pawn in a maniacal plot for world sexual domination. Like all of Palahniuk’s stuff, the horror hides in the skin of the surreal and socio-political, and FANGORIA caught up with Chuck to discuss…

FANGORIA: Where did you dig up all this sexual history?

CHUCK PALAHNIUK: You say “dig up.”  I say “make up.”  Once an author establishes authority, he or she can take the story anywhere and it will continue to be believable. I also invented fight clubs, and look how that turned out. Perhaps the trick is to give people what they already unknowingly want. People wanted fight clubs to exist. People want those Chilean “married stones” that will drive you insane with erotic pleasure. Soon, hospital emergency rooms will be overwhelmed by people who’ve inserted large magnets into their rectums.

The internet has made research so easy. The storytelling game has become: what new, interesting premise can you make existing facts support?  Also, never be afraid to make shit up. Spoiler Alert: I invented two new parts of the female sexual anatomy and named them after friends. To raise money for charity, I’d originally planned to auction off fictional glands and nodes and whatnot. As it is, my friends were thrilled to see their names immortalized in Penny Harrigan’s sexy innards.

FANGORIA: Do you think BEAUTIFUL YOU will be your FIGHT CLUB for women?

PALAHNIUK: Among the women I know, slash fiction is wildly popular, and I just wanted to bring its highly sexualized charms to the conventional market. I cribbed elements from popular ‘chick lit’ books and cobbled them together, until the novel’s working title was “Fifty Shades of the Twilight Cave Bear Wears Prada.”  So, it’s a “slash mash-up” wherein Andrea from THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA has hot, wet lady-on-lady sex with her elderly boss, Miranda…  Only on the top of Mt. Everest…  And with references to tons of fashion designers. Oh, and it’s also a courtroom drama. This book covers all the bases.

FANGORIA: What was your ultimate inspiration?

PALAHNIUK: My inspiration? I really wanted to explore the topic of “arousal addiction,” but to do so in a comic, indirect way. How would Ira Levin tackle this social issue?  The idea of a commodity that replaces physical and emotional intimacy– in effect, a fake love– that captivated me. For men, that false intimacy takes the form of pornography. For women… well, I keep seeing television advertisements for sex toys. So, why not depict a sex toy that takes over the world?

FANGORIA: A sexual apocalypse, a rejuvenated feminist movement; You seem to love grand scale, epic stories…

PALAHNIUK: You know me. I’m all about the big happy endings. Besides, it’s nice to write on a scale that no Hollywood film budget could ever match. My locations include the Academy Awards Ceremony, the United Nations General Assembly, the top of the Eiffel Tower, the top of Mt. Everest, a pink skyscraper in Manhattan, and Omaha, Nebraska. Let’s see the movie people scramble to match THAT!

FANGORIA: What else is happening with you?

PALAHNIUK: I don’t want to steal anyone’s press release thunder! Dark Horse Comics announced the details of the FIGHT CLUB graphic novel sequel at Comic-Con in San Diego  For now, I’m working with the illustrator, the colorist and the letterer to create the issues. David Fincher will join me at the announcement event to discuss the long life of the original story and film. And Fincher’s hinted that the musical version is taking shape, funded from an unlikely source.

For next year, I’m completing a collection of short stories. Some will be previously published.  “Zombies” and “Romance,” for example, but the bulk of the book will be new stories. I have one left to write, and I’ll be done. As always, the last is the most difficult. No hints about the theme or title, but my editor has already asked me to get my shit under control. He was very disturbed by “Cannibal” when it was printed in Playboy. He’s yet to see some of the newer stories that make “Cannibal” look tame.

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BEAUTIFUL YOU by Chuck Palahniuk is currently available wherever books are sold.

About the author
John Nicol
John Nicol is a Media Arts graduate and has spent his entire life immersed in films. After several years of writing screenplays, collaborating on other people’s films and making festival-screened shorts, he wrote, directed and produced his own indie feature called CHANNEL ZERO – a metaphysical picture that blends elements of 28 DAYS LATER and TRAINSPOTTING with his own personal obsessions. John has been a contributing writer for FANGORIA since 2011 and is responsible for FANGORIA's recurring Halloween party in Toronto, Canada.
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