"Gone Girl" author discusses book, writing, film adaptation
Contrary to popular belief, Gillian Flynn, the author of the acclaimed bestseller, Gone Girl, is not an overnight success. In fact, she’s been working as a writer every day since she was 22 years old.
“I always joke it’s like the 10-year overnight success,” Flynn said. “I was a working journalist for 10 years, and even my first two books I wrote while I still had the day job. Gone Girl was not a moment where I was like ‘Yes! I’ve written this book...this is going to do it for me,’ or anything...It just happened.”
Gone Girl, Flynn’s most recent of three mystery novels, has spent over 78 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller list and is currently being adapted into a film. To celebrate the book's paperback release, Flynn made an appearance at New York City’s Union Square Barnes and Nobles on April 24, where she discussed the novel, her writing experiences, future projects and the upcoming movie with fellow author, Laura Lippman.
Flynn previously wrote about television and film for Entertainment Weekly, a job she loved; Flynn said the experience proved very helpful when transitioning to fiction writing.
“[I] worked for a weekly magazine for a lot of years, and when you do that, you’re expected to write every single day, no matter what. If you don’t feel like it, it doesn’t matter--you still have to write,” she said. “It was great exercise. I don’t think I could have become a novelist without that sort of discipline and training, ‘cause that really did teach me that there really is no good time to write. There’s no muse waiting to come visit you. You just have to sit down and just make yourself write.”
After completing her second novel, “Dark Places,” Flynn was let go from Entertainment Weekly, an experience she said changed her relationship with writing.
“I wanted my day job. ‘Cause you just don’t know how the next book’s going to do, and I wasn’t very well established yet,” Flynn said. “To have my day job removed from me put me in a very different space for Gone Girl ... [There were] four or five months where I was really nervous [because] I don’t know how to do anything but write. I’ve never done anything but write.”
Gone Girl follows married couple Nick and Amy Dunne, as Nick becomes a suspect in the wake of his wife’s disappearance on their fifth anniversary. In the novel, Nick is also laid off from his job at a pop culture magazine.
“I did channel a lot of that angst into Nick--that idea that, what do you do when the thing that you thought you were going to do forever [is gone]?” she said.
One of the reason’s Flynn said she thinks that this book was so successful is because it has a relationship at its center.
“My first two novels were written as mysteries and hopefully you can relate to the characters, but you cannot necessarily, hopefully, relate to their situations,” Flynn said. “Whereas everyone has been in a--or most people have been in a long-term relationship, and kind of recognize the ebb and flow.”
Flynn said the story wasn’t inspired by any true crime cases but rather her own worries as a newlywed.
“I spent too much time thinking how could it go wrong,” she said, adding that she was also interested in how the media covers tragedy, and what it would feel like for a husband to be at the center of that.
Flynn wrote the screenplay for the upcoming film adaptation of the book. She said she’d always wanted to write a screenplay, but that it was a very different experience from novel writing, which was something she needed to be wary of.
“They’re two extremely different things,” she said. “So I felt like my first job in adapting it was to respect it as a screenplay and kind of understand [that] to make it a really good movie, I had to not try to save everything--not try to aim it toward any sort of direction, but to make it into a translatable, enjoyable movie, but still keep...the nuances of the book.”
The movie, which is slated for an October 2014 release, will star Ben Affleck as Nick and Rosamund Pike as Amy. Flynn said that the film's director, David Fincher, was “absolutely just fantastic” to work with.
“He’s my favorite director. People asked me early on, like, ‘If anyone directed this, you know, who would it be?’ And I was always like, 'David Fincher,'” Flynn said. “He’s incredibly good at these unsettling, dread-inducing moments...this feeling of inevitability.”
Flynn said she will be writing a young adult novel in the future, although was clear that it wouldn't contain any vampires.
“I’m so excited to go Y.A., [but] that’s a little bit down the road,” she said. Flynn described how she would really like to bring back the Lois Duncan-like style of novel writing. "Those were my favorites when I was a kid. Like the good old-fashioned...little mysteries.”
Flynn is also working on another upcoming adult novel.
“[It] is going to be kind of big sprawling, kind of folkloric American murder story. Think in the vein of like Executioner's Song, or something like that. Echoey.”
Flynn said that with her future books she hopes to avoid writing in response to, or in imitation of, Gone Girl.
“To me, my biggest job with writing the next book is to not try to replicate Gone Girl ‘cause I’m never going to be able to do that,” she said. “[But to] write the book that I would want to read and that people I like would want to read.”
While Flynn has no immediate plans to pen a sequel to Gone Girl, she said she hasn’t completely written off the possibility.
“Never say never. I really do love these characters. They were certainly the characters that I spent the most time with. You know, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who they were. So I know them very well now.”
Flynn added, “It’d be fun to revisit them, like, 10 years from now and see what’s up."