Describing herself as a true-crime addict, Gillian Flynn, author of the New York Times #1 Best-Selling novels Gone Girl (Crown 2012; $25), tells the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, a couple who in the financial downturn decide to leave a glamorous life in Manhattan and start over in Nick’s small Missouri hometown. While Nick buys a bar with his sister, Amy, the famous daughter of wealthy parents becomes a stay-at-home wife. In their alternating voices, recounting their meeting, courtship and married life, we begin to see how and why their once passionate relationship so full of promise is falling apart.
Amy, high strung, always needing to be the best and the most perfect – a side effect of being the basis for the “Amazing Amy” character her parents created and turned into a bestselling series of books and Nick, emotionally beaten down by his father and now always quietly rebelling against almost all expectations, were fine when life was good but hardships whittle them down.
Nick’s been drinking too much; Amy continues to try to be ebullient and inventive but she’s also narcisitic and needs to be superior. Then on their 5th wedding anniversary, Nick comes home to find the house in disarray and Amy gone.
Did she leave on her own or did someone kidnap or murder her? And was it Nick?
Flynn, a former movie and TV critic for Entertainment Weekly who lives in Chicago with her husband and their two-year-old son, long has mused on how the media selects, sensationalizes and packages stories about beautiful people whose love has gone bad. And though Flynn didn’t base her book on any particular case, think Scott and Lacey Peterson as an example.
“A wife goes missing,” says Flynn, “you assume that the husband did it.”
The daughter of a film professor, Flynn’s inspiration not only came from recent headlines but also from movies like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton (though in the film these two charismatic stars are looking anything but good) and The War of the Roses with handsome Michael Douglas and gorgeous Kathleen Turner.
“It’s one of the best black comedies ever,” says Flynn about The War of the Roses.
Music including what she describes as a great old murder ballad called “Rose Connelly” or “Down in the Willow Garden” also set the lonely theme for her book.
It’s sung by a man who’s talking about murdering his pregnant girlfriend,” she says. “It’s this gorgeous, beautiful, mournful kind of song that I could see Amy getting dramatic about and listening to while writing diary entries and enjoying the tragedy of it all.”
The adaptation rights for Gone Girl, Flynn’s third novel, named by Amazon as the best novel of 2012, were auctioned off to actress Reese Witherspoon for a reported $1.5 million. Witherspoon is producing the film as well as playing Amy; Flynn is working on the screenplay. Flynn’s two earlier books should hit the big screen as well. Amy Adams is slated to play the star role in Flynn’s Dark Places and there’s an option for her first novel, Sharp Objects.
All this has put her on The Hollywood Reporter's inaugural list of the 25 most powerful authors in Hollywood. One reason, muses Flynn, may be because her novels, while mysteries, are also very character driven.
“I'm certainly happy that there is an interest in characters and exploring psyches and backgrounds, and not just telling an action-driven story,” says Flynn noting that she writes about very strong female characters. “More and more actresses are having that clout to be able to lead interesting, dark movies and aren't afraid to take on these characters — the darker, damaged women.”
Growing up, Flynn and her father went to movies all the time on their father-daughter “dates.”
“I'd love to return the favor and take him to the premiere of one of the movies, “she says, “so fingers crossed.”