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Goodreads recently hosted a web chat with the bestselling author of Gone Girl. Members who had read the author’s book were invited to the chat and could also submit questions. Suffice to say, the chat served as an interesting glimpse into Gillian Flynn’s artistic process.

Flynn started off by saying reader response to Gone Girl blew her away. The author knew she’d written a book she liked, but she had no way of knowing she had just written her breakout book. It debuted higher than expected and hit number one on July 4, just one month after being published.


Gillian Flynn Author Photo


In response to readers wanting to know if the author always knew how Gone Girl would end or if it evolved as she wrote it, Flynn explained how her process usually starts with characters or images. Gone Girl began as an image of a wide open door that a husband comes home to. A door swung wide, and not in a someone is taking out the trash kind of way, but rather swung wide in a foreboding way. Flynn emphasized she would never want to plot out a story too much since doing do would take out the fun of seeing what the characters eventually do and which ones end up taking over.


People often tell Flynn they hated the end. So she then asks those readers what they wanted to happen. Readers usually say they wanted justice, but she says nothing in the context of the story hints at justice being likely. The book is about a toxic relationship. The ending is about two people who are each other’s match for better or worse.


Also, Flynn’s female characters tend to be not likeable or sympathetic. She never personally reads hero stories or to see a character overcome great odds. She reads to find how characters will react. The author recalled how she never wanted to be the princess, but always the witch, because we all know the witch is much more interesting. We can all relate to the curiosity involved with wondering why the witch become so bad.


Gone Girl is also about the impact of the economic collapse on individual lives. Flynn began writing the novel at the height of the recession, and the author herself was a former journalist who had been laid off from her job. Entire industries were succumbing and Flynn wanted it to be a larger symbol of the state of the married couple and how they, like many others, were coming to the end of many things.


Upon further reflection of the novel’s ending, Flynn stated she still loves it. She likes endings that leave the reading feeling uneasy. The sensation of wondering what’s going to happen next to the characters even though the book is finished. She likened it to the end of Rosemary’s Baby final note of “Hey the devil is in the world, goodbye.”


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


Flynn also admitted to thinking about her characters a lot, and she doesn’t think things would go too smoothly with Nick and Amy in the possible future. However, that doesn’t mean a sequel is in the works, but never say never.


Another interesting aspect of Gillian Flynn’s video chat came out in how we all put on personas to some extent of what we think are our best selves, especially when we start dating and getting to know each other. Gone Girl is largely a book about storytelling and self-mythologizing. Nick and Amy are both professional story tellers who take pride in their ability to spin and manipulate reality. At its heart, the novel is largely a story of he said she said given how it incorporates both viewpoints.


Writing the first draft is what Flynn finds most challenging since she doesn’t like to outline. The frustration is partly her own fault when it comes to hitting roadblocks and getting a sense of when something can’t happen. Largely, her first draft bears little resemblance to the final draft.


With three published books now under her belt, Flynn advises: “Don’t do the research, just write the book. You can trick yourself you’re doing research, but really you’re online just wasting time.” Toward the very end is when she will check necessary facts.


A young adult novel is a bit down the road, and the author playfully threw in, “No vampires!” Her next book for adults will be a psychological thriller driven by personality, but she’s not quite ready to talk about the plot. However, it will be another dark, psychological thriller. Flynn admits she can’t seem to get out of nasty people’s minds.


What dark, psychological thrillers have left their mark on you?


You can also read Utter Depravity my review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.



Image Credit: The Broken Heart by Виталий Смолыгин

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