Inside Gillian Flynn's Dark and Rage-Filled Empire

Posted by Cybil on July 5, 2018
gillian flynn

You're about to be hearing a lot from Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, beginning this month with HBO's eight-episode adaptation of her debut novel, Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams. The series will take readers back to the town of Wind Gap, Missouri. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: She must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. She'll also have to face her neurotic mother and the half-sister she barely knows.

But that's just the first entry from Flynn. There's also a Steve McQueen film, an Amazon TV show, and—of course—that long-awaited book her fans have been clamoring for.

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Goodreads: So your debut is finally getting the adaptation treatment. How does it feel to see your first book come to the screen?

Gillian Flynn: It’s vindication. I always felt that this was a book that felt so ripe for the screen. It’s also just a vindication of people seeing it and discovering it. It was a book that a lot of people weren’t that interested in. It got good reviews, but it was not a screaming success, let’s put it that way. And, to me, it’s a great f---ing book.

It's a book about dangerous women. And because it was a book about female rage and female violence, it was—particularly at that time—a topic that people weren’t that ready or interested in talking about. That was 2005, and when we were trying to sell [the film rights], we heard a lot of, "You know, maybe the next book. Maybe not this one."

Goodreads: It seems that your books have changed the mystery and thriller genre in that way, by bringing forward these female characters who are imperfect, who do show rage and violence.

GF: Yeah, it took a while. I mean, Dark Places came along, and Libby’s a really unlikable female narrator and she’s full of rage. She kicks people, and beats people, and attacks people. And people weren’t that into that one, either! And that’s a great book, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, I love that book, personally. I’m proud of that book. Again, it was a time period that those kinds of books weren't common, that I know of. Certainly not as common as they are now. Now you can walk into a bookstore and say, "I want a book with a dark female narrator," and they can walk you over to any number of books. That did not happen back then.

It goes along with time’s changing. To me it’s no surprise that Sharp Objects is coming to life right with the #MeToo movement, with the #TimesUp movement, that women have, over this 12-year time period, found rage and found their voices and said "enough."

Goodreads: You're an executive producer and wrote three of Sharp Objects' eight episodes. What can fans of your book expect from the series?

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GF: It’s a loyal adaptation, but you get to see all its warts…here is a phantasmagoria of a place brought to life. There’s no other place like Wind Gap. So to get to see it bloom to life, to get to see Adora's lush Victorian house and her hog farm and Wind Gap's parks and lush places, where it seems if you left a car for too long, a vine would grow over it. You'll see the femaleness of the place and the ominousness of the place. You can feel that in a way that’s so striking. And to see the actors and actresses really bring these people to life is really something different and exciting.

Because we did have that room in the series, we were able to play with more subplots and add a few more twists. It’s faithful to the book, but we’re able to take a few more loop-de-loops and add a few more weird cul-de-sacs to Wind Gap. And play with certain characters’ backstories. You get to know more about a few more characters…we just got to have room to play with those characters and grow them more. And say, "What would these people be like? What would they be doing?" It’s fun to get to revisit it now. I had not looked at it in those 12 years since it’s been published. And to look back and say, "No, really, what was the deal with this guy?"

Goodreads: What did you find is the main difference between adapting your novels from films versus the series?

GF: It’s purely the decadence of not having to figure out what to include and what not to include. Just being able to sit and have a big feast in the writers' room and say, "OK, here it all is!" Then it becomes more about "Where do we put it all, and how do we do it?" We just get to enjoy it.

Goodreads: What's your review of the adaptation?

GF: It lives up to its gothic creepiness. It keeps all the female rage and isn’t afraid of that. It doesn’t try to make Camille into some likable, easy-to-digest female. It presents her in all of her difficult true character and lets you decide.

Goodreads: You are a very busy woman! In addition to your work on Sharp Objects, you also co-wrote the upcoming film Widows with director Steve McQueen, and wrote and serve as showrunner on the American adaptation of the U.K. television series Utopia for Amazon. And that's just the TV and film work. You're also signed up to take on Hamlet as part of The Hogarth Shakespeare series, and then there's the secret book you're currently working on!

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GF: This is a house that runs on Red Bull and 5-hour Energy right now!

Goodreads: How are you balancing the work you're doing for television and film with your writing?

GF: I get up kind of early and write on my novel. And that is kind of coming together the way Sharp Objects did, which is piece by piece, and then all of a sudden you look up and it’s done.

And then the other thing I’m doing, which the writing is completed for, is I wrote all nine episodes of a show called Utopia, which is an adaptation of a U.K. series that’s about a group of comic book nerds that come across a graphic novel that may be hinting to a possible end of the world. Light stuff like that! I created and am showrunning that, and it will go into production at the end of the year.

Goodreads: You seem to be building your own media empire!

GF: It’s sort of interesting…I mean, in a way, it makes perfect sense if you look at my parents and my childhood. My parents were junior college teachers. And my mom taught reading, she had her master’s degree in reading, and she taught reading comprehension. She was always putting a book in my hand. And my dad taught theater and film. So I was constantly either going to the movies with my dad or reading with my mom. I was constantly toggling back and forth in those worlds. And so now, I’m still kind of doing that! For me, it feels so right and perfect.

It’s just being able to maintain it. I can’t possibly maintain this level I'm at right now, so as soon as I’m done with Utopia, I’m excited to go back to purely the book world for a couple years. Because I do owe—I make it sound like the Mob—"I do owe a number of people some books! They’re going to come after me pretty soon!"

But it’s true. As much as I love the collaboration of TV and movies, I’m actually ready to go back to my little hidey-hole for a year or two and be in book land and write those books, because I know exactly what they are, I just need the time.

And what happened is I got swept up in Utopia, and I just love the idea so much, I get so excited about that. But, yeah, as soon as I’m done with that, I’m going back to book land for a little bit.

Goodreads: What can you tell us about the book you're working on? We're all dying to read it!

GF: I’m not saying too much, but it’s kind of an ensemble. There’s a shifting number of voices, about four different characters. I will say that I started writing it right after President Trump got elected. But I’m not saying too much more…. It’s political, well, it’s mainly a dark psychological thriller, for the most part. I think that’s the most accurate way to say it.

Goodreads: I’ve read that you’ve described it as an alternative reality set in the current time. Is that accurate?

GF: It has shifted since then, but I think that’s still fair to say.

Goodreads: Gone Girl was one of the most successful thrillers of the last 20 years. How did its success change your life?

GF: It’s given me the chance to write more, that’s basically been the great thing about it. I mean, I would say before Gone Girl, I was always proving myself so that I could write. And hoping that I would always be able to write for a living, which was my dream. And Gone Girl has given me that calling card and confidence that I would be able to be a writer forever. I feel that under my feet, which is a great place to be able to write from: to know that I can experiment more, that I can try more things, that I’ll always have that ability to stretch even more.

Goodreads: Your books are so dark. How do you get in that frame of mind? Where do you go mentally to write these characters?

GF: It’s frighteningly easy for me to slip into the darkness; it’s crawling back out that’s trickier. I’m an empath, so I can get into most people’s brain space. I think most writers are. You grow up feeling like an outsider, and grow up trying to figure people out and what makes them tick. And you have that sort of ability.

Goodreads: What books are you currently reading and recommending to friends?

GF: I loved This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins, How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. Like everyone else, I loved Tangerine by Christine Mangan. And then, randomly, the one I just finished reading was The Murder at Sissingham Hall. I finished it last night, and it’s by Clara Benson. It's absolutely delightful, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of Sarah Caudwell, or Agatha Christie, or anyone who loves really clever British murder mysteries set in the '20s. I’m literally going to read the next book in the series tonight.

Comments Showing 1-50 of 148 (148 new)

message 1: by Anissa (new)

Anissa I haven't read anything by Flynn yet. I honestly feel like I'm one of a handful who hasn't read Gone Girl. But, I do intend on reading Tangerine soon.

message 2: by Janice (new)

Janice I don't go for dark reads.

message 3: by Yasmin (new)

Yasmin Lahm such a good interview! i look forward to Flynn's new novel, as an avid fan of her books.

message 4: by Rob (new)

Rob Squires "Sharp Objects" is the one book by Gillian Flynn that I haven't read, but now it has jumped to the top of my "To Read" list. Looking forward to reading it and to watching the HBO series. And I was happy to hear that they're making it into a series instead of just a film.

message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris Sharp Objects was the first book I read of Flynn's and then I was hooked and read everything thereafter! I love her writing and am longing for a new book from her! I'm going to have to subscribe to HBO now so I can watch the series!

message 6: by Cindy (new)

Cindy I am not a fan of psychological thrillers myself, but as a librarian I know how extremely popular they are, especially among my female patrons. This was a good interview. Nice to hear what she has to say about her books and see the love she has for them. As long as she keeps writing, I will have patrons for her books.

message 7: by Keshan (new)

Keshan The paranoid is never entirely mistaken! by Sigmund Freud
wow..this is the my kind! Gillian Flynn is a one of my best suspense and thriller authors!. Gone girl is the best like the motion picture! And i also think this tv-series going well! :)

message 8: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Janice wrote: "I don't go for dark reads."

... thanks for sharing.

message 9: by M. (new)

M. I see her influence in so many books I read, most recently Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman.

I like that she is down for making the main characters, particularly the women, unlikable to a varying extent.

message 10: by Susan (new)

Susan I loved Dark Places and Sharp Objects. I enjoy going to the dark side of things in books. Both books had main characters who were damaged but they persevered. I find characters like that make me hopeful. Gillian is one of my favorite authors

message 11: by Darcy Flurry (new)

Darcy Flurry God, I love Gillian Flynn. I'm so excited to watch this limited series on HBO. I recently re-read Sharp Objects. I'd forgotten how well-written the book is. Flynn is such an excellent writer. My favorite book of all time is Gone Girl (I could write a dissertation on that sucker I've read it and dissected it so many times), but Sharp Objects really is a close second. While Gone Girl is nasty and fun, Sharp Objects is just nasty. But oh-so-good nasty.

message 12: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Love Gillian Flynn's books. I've read all of them, plus her short story (The Grownup). Great interview. Can't wait for the next book.

message 13: by Abby (new)

Abby I cannot wait for this series! I absolutely loved Sharp Objects.

message 14: by Amber (last edited Jul 05, 2018 03:18PM) (new)

Amber Good luck on the HBO series, but sorry you are not on my reading radar, Ms. Flynn. You and Dan Brown are authors I would probably never read cuz the books don't look interesting to me. I don't watch HBO anyway cuz I don't have premium cable TV and I watch Netflix and stuff more on my Roku TV.

BTW, can there be blog posts on here where you actually ask us goodreads users here on the website for our recommendations instead of on Facebook and twitter? Just curious. We all comment here on the site more than the other social media accounts anyway. and can you ask us smaller goodreads book clubs for our reading recommendations too? Just asking. From Amber an avid reader who loves to read for pleasure and founder of the reading for pleasure book club here on goodreads.

message 15: by Nitzan (last edited Jul 05, 2018 03:39PM) (new)

Nitzan Glad to hear she's going back to focusing on writing novels, it's been too long since her last book.

message 16: by Caitlin (new)

Caitlin Bronson Dying at all the people who feel compelled to comment and tell the world they're not interested or into Gillian Flynn's books. Congrats...?

Anyway, I'm really excited for this series. I think Flynn taps into the deeper vein of female rage and disenfranchisement in a really relevant, political way that genre copycats like Paula Hawkins or Ruth Ware can't manage. Add in her commentary on our nationwide disdain for flyover states, the poor working class, and danger that is both experienced and perpetuated by women, and it's perfection.

Amy Adams is the perfect person to bring Camille Preaker to life and 2018 is the perfect time for this to debut. It really just shows how far ahead of the game Flynn was/is.

Can't wait to read what she releases next.

message 17: by John (new)

John Dunn Love all her books .. will order HBO tomorrow so I can watch this series. Great interview .. glad you are writing again .. looking forward to upcoming BOOKS!!

message 18: by Serena (new)

Serena Benson A must read author, I consume about four books a week and love all of Flynn’s work. Dark, raw and real.

message 19: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte Love your work!!!

message 20: by Erica (new)

Erica Stinson I was so excited to hear about the series, as I enjoyed the book. I can't wait until July 8th!

message 21: by M. (new)

M. Caitlin wrote: "Anyway, I'm really excited for this series. I think Flynn taps into the deeper vein of female rage and disenfranchisement in a really relevant, political way that genre copycats like Paula Hawkins or Ruth Ware can't manage. Add in her commentary on our nationwide disdain for flyover states, the poor working class, and danger that is both experienced and perpetuated by women, and it's perfection."

I agree. I think I like Paula Hawkins more than you do, though. I've yet to read Ruth Ware. But I do enjoy the honesty of Flynn's writing, and will always appreciate her the passage in Gone Girl about Cool Girls.

message 22: by Sasha (new)

Sasha I read Sharp Objects and Dark Places before I read Gone Girl, and Sharp Objects is still my favorite. I love the dark psychology and razor-sharp (pun intended) writing. Excited to see the show!

message 23: by DolphinBlue (new)

DolphinBlue Wonderer wrote: "Caitlin wrote: "I think Flynn taps into the deeper vein of female rage and disenfranchisement in a really relevant, political way that genre copycats like Paula Hawkins or Ruth Ware can't manage. A..."

Wanderer, there's not much creepier than someone who takes pleasure in insulting and misinterpreting the pleasures of others.

message 24: by DolphinBlue (new)

DolphinBlue Wonderer wrote: "Looking at the reviews, it seems the kind of person who enjoys reading "Sharp Objects" ends it by thinking "now I feel better about myself".

I enjoy optimistic stories with protagonists who aren't..."

Yes. That's just you.

message 25: by Gita (new)

Gita I enjoyed reading Gone Girl for the adeptly racy narrative that keeps you glued for ‘what next?’ It is available on Netflix & on my list to watch. Will surely read Sharp Objects.

message 26: by Lynn (last edited Jul 05, 2018 10:30PM) (new)

Lynn I loved the book, Sharp Objects. Can't wait for the TV series. I just hope it comes to a streaming service because I don't have HBO.

message 27: by Gita (new)

Gita Sorry I wrote it wrong above, Gone Girl is not on Netflix. I mistook it for another one from same genre

message 28: by poiboy (new)

poiboy sadly an over-hyped author.

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Gone Girl blew me away. Then i was hooked. I love the dark side and i love this author. I have read all her books. Really looking forward to the next one. The series is already set up to record can't wait.

message 30: by Julie (new)

Julie Baxter Janice wrote: "I don't go for dark reads."

So why even comment then?

message 31: by Emily (new)

Emily Hoffman Sharp Objects IMO is Flynn’s best novel. Dark, twisty and surprising. I always thought while reading it that it would make a great movie or show, even more so then her others, so I’m super excited to watch the adaptation!

message 32: by Brittany (new)

Brittany If you haven't yet, you should read Dark Places! It is my favorite Gillian Flynn book. There was nothing like the twist while reading Gone Girl, and I liked how creepy Sharp Objects was, but I thought Dark Places was the best of the three. Excited for the series!

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* I hadn't read her, even with the all the Gone Girl recs, but this year my book club picked Sharp Objects. I really enjoyed it - twisted and interesting story that made me think. It felt surreal with the writing style and looked at a few societal issues I read little about in general, things that need more exposure. Will be checking out the TV series, and have since then picked up some more of her books.

message 34: by Kelsey (new)

Kelsey Thanks for the interview- it was great! I absolutely love Gillian Flynn and Sharp Objects is my favorite book of hers! I am so pumped for this TV series! And this interview answered my question of when is she going to write more books since I have been dying for another one! Thanks Gillian- you’re the best!

message 35: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Loved this interview! I picked up JF’s Sharp Objects and never looked back! Thoroughly loved it as well as the rest. I was so sad to not have more to read especially after reading The Grown Up! Lol!
Seriously talented. I never watch tv however this HBO series I will certainly subscribe to asap! Merci!

message 36: by Kelly (new)

Kelly *GF! Early morning, 1/2 c coffee has me not able to type lol!

message 37: by Darcy Flurry (new)

Darcy Flurry Caitlin wrote: "Dying at all the people who feel compelled to comment and tell the world they're not interested or into Gillian Flynn's books. Congrats...?

Lol, they are cracking me up. That would be like me reading an entire interview with Carrie Underwood and then commenting, "Sorry, I just don't like country music." Hah!

message 38: by Lex (new)

Lex YAS! Finally some word about what she's writing! I also can't wait to watch this adaptation, it's one of my favourites of her work. Gillian Flynn is one of my favourite authors!

message 39: by Tim (new)

Tim Jacobs I Have not read anythink by Gillian Flynn, but the New novel, Sharp Objects sounds quite interesting.

message 40: by Molly (new)

Molly This is so so exciting! Sharp objects is my all time favourite novel and I just can’t wait to watch this series! Great interview!

message 41: by Nicole (new)

Nicole Gillian Flynn is by far my favorite author and everything she writes is gripping and addictive! This was a great interview and I cannot wait for her next book as well as the HBO series of Sharp Objects. Love a strong, dark female lead 💪🏻

Cherlynn | cherreading Love ALL her books, even The Grownup was fantastic. Gone Girl is still my favourite :) Can't wait for her new book!!!

message 43: by Camille (new)

Camille Moraes I'm so relieved to know that she will soon go back to bookland. :)

message 44: by Kathy (new)

Kathy I love Gillian Flynn and couldn't get enough. I so hope this type of twisted novels stay popular.

message 45: by Hallie (new)

Hallie Spurlock Her books aren’t incredible but she’s not too bad I guess. I just wish she would publish her new book already. I’m a pretty patient reader when it comes to authors but come on girl it’s been like 12 years.

message 46: by Vita (new)

Vita Julie wrote: "Janice wrote: "I don't go for dark reads."

So why even comment then?"

Exactly! It's like coming to a Stephen King interview/page and grumbling about horror/ sci-fi

message 47: by Vita (new)

Vita Have read everything and I'm in love! Can't wait for the new book! Good luck with the show I'm sure it's gonna be stunning! As to people that are missing out on this amazing writer of "thrillers" : ¯\_(ツ)_/¯no one cares lol you are missing out!? And please do not lump this writer with Dan Brown.

message 48: by Yasmin (new)

Yasmin Majors Super excited about the HBO series and looking forward to the release of her next novel.

message 49: by LM (new)

LM Goodrich Love her books, but so far films have not been satisfactory.

message 50: by Michele (new)

Michele She is a dark writer, after reading Gone Girl, and Dark Places, I could not read Sharp Objects right after....I recommend spacing them out...still haven't read Sharp Objects, I will be watching the series....eventually I will read it....awesome writer tho.

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