Once the exclusive provenance of children, coloring books have recently been targeted more toward older audiences with the advent of adult coloring books. These days, even famous authors are doing their own experiments with the form. Fight Club writer Chuck Palahniuk, for instance, released his own adult coloring book last year. Bait: Off-Color Stories For You To Color paired several new Palahniuk stories with fascinating illustrations from artists like Duncan Fegredo and Lee Bermejo, left blank for readers to color. Now he’s doing another one, and this time it’s a novella.
Legacy: An Off-Color Novella For You To Color is actually Palahniuk’s second novella (his first, Inclinations, appeared in his 2015 collection Make Something Up) but it is nevertheless his first in the coloring-book format. It will feature interior illustrations from Mike Norton (Battlepug) and Steve Morris (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and a cover by Fegredo.
Palahniuk talked with EW to preview his newest foray into the world of coloring books. Check that out below, and see Fegredo’s Legacy cover above. Legacy will be on sale from Dark Horse Books in both bookstores and comic book stores Nov. 7.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What did you learn from your experience doing Bait that you were able to apply it here?
CHUCK PALAHNIUK: Writing Bait, I realized that anything described as “white” is antithetical to a coloring book. I’d written the story “Dad All Over” and set it in a colorless landscape of snow, then had to hedge by adding a passage about how snow is never simply white but reflects all the colors of the spectrum. In Legacy, everything gets a color. And if appropriate, a pattern.
You’ve worked in comics with Fight Club 2. What would you say are the differences between working on comics and working on these kinds of coloring books? How do you incorporate the stories with the art here?
In a comic, I might get to write a few big “splash” panels containing countless details and filling an entire page. The majority of panels are smaller and contain only enough detail to pace the action and dialog. But in a coloring book the story carries the plot so the illustrations all become “splash” pages so rich the reader can pore over them. My editor Scott Allie and I choose the plot points that seem to carry the most drama, in the most-detailed settings, and we ask each artist to read the manuscript and choose favorite moments as well. These become the illustrations we pass back and forth, suggesting additional elements until we’re all satisfied.
The use of the coloring pages allows some reader participation in the stories they’re reading. What do you like about that?
What I like most about coloring books is how the reader ultimately completes the story. The reader is already doing so much heavy lifting — envisioning aspects of his or her own life in the story — why not allow the reader to personalize the finished book? Whether the book is then given as a gift or kept, it becomes an artifact of the original reader’s experience. Isn’t that the core nature of stories themselves? To reflect the reader?
What can you tease about what readers can expect from the illustrations in this one? How will they interact with the story?
It should be no surprise that the illustrations will deal with adult situations. That said, they add a child-like quality of innocence to a sometimes brutal story. Similar to how the work of Roald Dahl had a dark appeal for adults as well as children, Legacy tells a fantasy story based in the modern world. The coloring book aspect of it as well as the illustrations themselves help a spooky story about spirituality and mythology sneak in under the radar.