Palahniuk has stated that the book was inspired by an actual fight he had while on a camping trip. He returned to work with bruises, but his co-workers never asked what had happened. This seeming reluctance to know the details of his private life...
Palahniuk was born on February 21, 1962 in Pasco, Washington, and spent much of his childhood in nearby Burbank, Washington living with his family in a mobile home. His parents would later divorce, leaving he and his three siblings to live with their grandparents on a cattle ranch in Eastern Washington state.
Palahniuk attended the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism. While a college student he spent time working as an intern for National Public Radio member station KLCC in Eugene, Oregon. Palahniuk graduated in 1986 and moved to Portland, Oregon where he began working for local newspapers. He eventually left these positions to work as a diesel mechanic for truck manufacturer Freightliner, and stayed with this job until his writing career began to blossom. Palahniuk did not return to journalism until after becoming established as a novelist. He also spent time doing volunteer work at a homeless shelter as well as at a hospice for the terminally ill, where he escorted patients to support meetings. Palahniuk stopped volunteering after a patient he grew close to passed away.
In his thirties Palahniuk took to writing fiction. His initial attempts at publication proved difficult as his material was rejected on the grounds that it was too disturbing. He did manage, however, to have a short story published in a compilation in 1995. This short story was the basis of what would become his most famous novel, Fight Club. To Palahniuk’s surprise, after expanding the short story into a novel it was accepted and published in 1996. It garnered the 1997 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award and the 1997 Oregon Book Award for Best Novel.
Following the publication of Fight Club, Palahniuk began receiving attention from Twentieth Century Fox for a potential film adaptation of his book. This attention allowed Palahniuk to secure a literary agent, Edward Hibbert. Hibbert would negotiate a deal with Twentieth Century Fox to bring the book to the cinema screen. In 1999, the film was released to disappointing box office receipts but has since gained a cult following.
That year also saw the publication of two Palahniuk novels: Survivor and Invisible Monsters. Since then, Palahniuk has also had the following novels published: Choke (which would also be adapted into a film), Lullaby, Diary, Haunted, Rant, Snuff, Pygmy, Tell-All, and Damned. 1999 also brought tragedy to Palahniuk’s life. His father, while on a date with a woman he’d met through a personal ad, was murdered by the woman’s ex-boyfriend. The woman, Donna Fontaine, was also killed. Palahniuk has said that he began working on the novel Lullaby following this event, to help him cope with the trauma of his loss and of the perpetrator receiving the death penalty.
Palahniuk’s writing style has been greatly influenced by Tom Spanbauer, who taught writing classes attended by Palahniuk in Portland. Frequently, the main character tells the story while speaking in the past tense, as if they were telling the story in real time. Themes in his stories tend to be dark and misanthropic while maintaining a developed sense of black humor. This has resulted in a reputation as a nihilist in some critic’s eyes, a charge Palahniuk dismisses. Palahniuk also writes non-fiction and interviews celebrities for various magazines. He confirmed that he is gay following an interview with Entertainment Weekly in 2003 in which he feared he was going to outed by the interviewer. Choke was released as a film in 2008 and the film rights to both Invisible Monsters and Diary have also been bought. Both are currently in development.