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Gillian Flynn Q&A

Gillian Flynn

Our book club choice for February 2013 was Gone Girl, a stylish and accomplished thriller by award-winning American author Gillian Flynn. This tale of a young woman who disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary has topped the bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic, and is currently being made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon.

Gillian Flynn lives in Chicago with her husband, son and a giant cat called Roy. Before turning to novels, she had a variety of jobs including TV critic for Entertainment Weekly, wrapping hams and dressing up as a yogurt cone in a dinner jacket... 

Q: Presumably you have to plot your novels meticulously beforehand? Do you enjoy that part of writing and how long does it take you compared to the actual writing bit? topshot

A: I'm not a huge plotter - I like to let the story take hold of itself and drag me along! Then once I have a first draft, I go back and rewrite and rewrite. My favorite part is the rewrite stage, where you know what is working and what isn’t and can start having fun.

Q: Are Amy's actions evil or driven by love? I had a controlling mother who truly and utterly believed that her way was the right and only way and that everything she did which annoyed or irritated you was done with your best interests at heart and out of love. I think I recognize some "Amy traits"! BoomerBabe

A: Thank you! I think Amy always believes she is doing what is right and best - mostly for herself. But what is good for Amy is good for everyone in her mind, because she is so utterly self-righteous. That was my key into Amy, that righteousness.

Gone Girl

Q: I was intrigued by the whole Amazing Amy thing - were you suggesting that Amy's parents were to blame for the way she was? Did you want to legitimise her rather than make her simply a psychopath? Sneetch

A: Nick and Amy are two people who’ve been parented in such a way that they truly believe they are the golden children - they can do no wrong. In Amy’s case, she had an iconic status, because of the Amy books, that she didn’t even earn. She’s beautiful, smart, wealthy - nothing has ever gone wrong for her. That’s a very dangerous way to grow up, because it doesn’t teach buoyancy. When things begin to go wrong, Amy doesn’t know what to do or how to handle it. But I’m less interested in legitimising her than in explaining her: Why she is the way she is.

Q: You give Amy some very powerful stuff to say about the price you have to pay to be a cool girl. It's a really blistering passage (and from over here makes American dating sound absolutely repulsive!) Are you trying to make a case for her as someone who genuinely has something to avenge? Congereel

A: Not to avenge, but certainly to be aggravated about. Amy is packed with resentments - that is just one of them, but it’s one that readers seem to connect with most. The idea of the rigged game that is Cool Girl!

Q: It started getting good at nearly halfway then I couldn't put it down it was so addictive, but what happened to the ending? It's one of these books I read where I think the author was trying to have a clever ending but it just came across as if she was fed up with the story so I would like to ask if you don't think your readers should have had a conclusion of some sort? Also did you read any true-life cases of people in a psychiatric hospital? annemac101

A: First—SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read this if you haven’t read the ending!

Thanks for the question. To me, that is the conclusion. I certainly debated others, but that’s the one that worked for me. I wanted the end to feel realistic and ragged, and this is what felt right to me. We all know those couples who become toxically addicted to each other. They like the gamesmanship of their marriage - they have found a worthy nemesis who also happens to be their soul mate. As Nick says: He wants to be a better man than he is. He wants someone forcing him to be smarter, wittier, more considerate, better. And in turn, Amy needs him to love her. He makes her laugh, he gives her perspective. You know, it’s tragically romantic. It’s also way more disturbing, to me, than Amy in a jail cell or Amy in a coffin.

Q: Did you specifically set out to write about two nasty people so readers would have divided loyalties? Also did you consider an ending that would have left readers with a closure of sorts rather than up in the air? GrandmaH

A: Yes, I wanted the reader to feel torn between two friends, each of them with their own manipulative agendas!

Other things you might like...

Q: Leaving aside Nick and Amy, can I ask why you made the other characters so dislikable, even those who turn up to help in the initial search? DavidH22

A: I tend to not think any of my characters are dislikable, but then I’m a creepy thriller writer so what do I know? I would say I’m less interested in writing a “hero’s journey” type story, where you are meant to root for a specific person. I like the feeling of freedom I have when a writer doesn’t overly direct me as to whom I should like or dislike, but lets me decide for my own personal and complicated reasons. And I write (and read) less because I want to root for someone than because I like to understand people, and the world is full of dislikable people I want to understand.

Q: Coffee walnut cake or chocolate cake?! getmehrt

A: Both!

Q: I wondered if you were intending to comment on more than a particular marriage in the book? Were you saying something about the decline of middle class lifestyle - not that it turns people into psychopaths and liars, but perhaps that it places intolerable strains on a lot of marriages? Flopsybunny

A: I think Nick and Amy had that kind of marriage that was lovely as long as it wasn’t tested. They are neither of them the kind of people (especially Amy) who can take too much going wrong. And when things go really wrong, spouses need to be able to lean on each other. Nick and Amy can’t. To an extreme degree!

Q: How long did it take you to write the book? Did you have to do a lot of research on the police and legal stuff? krispycreme

A: It took me a few years, with some time off for maternity leave! I do have several police and legal friends who look everything over for me—they put up with a million big and tiny questions.

Q: Will you have much input to the film? sofasogood

A: I am writing the screenplay, thrilling for me!
 

 

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