Gillian Flynn used her experience of being laid off after a decade as a journalist to “find a way into” her protagonist Nick, who suffers the same fate in Gone Girl.
Flynn went to journalism school with the aim of becoming a crime reporter but applied to Entertainment Weekly to be a television critic after realising she was “too unassertive” to succeed on the crime beat. After writing for 10 years she was made redundant.
“Nick is exactly how I felt for a bit there. I should emphasise I was one of the lucky ones as I had a book published and was about to have a second,” she said, before adding: “Yet, there was a space of four or five months between the layoff and the book contract when I wondered what I would do if I couldn’t write. I’m not good at anything else.” She said the only other job she had was waitressing “and I was a really bad waitress. I wondered if I had to reinvent myself what should I do it as? All I ever wanted to do is write.”
Yet Gone Girl also explores deeper uncertainties in society. “There really is some very deep and base fear about what we’re going to look like in the next 10 years in a lot of different fields,” she said. “The global economy is changing so much and Gone Girl boils that down to a specific place and time. A lot of people are wondering if they’ll have that same quality of life in the next 10 years.”
She grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and was influenced from an early age by her film professor father’s collection of movies. As well as Alien and Bonnie and Clyde she watched Psycho “a million times”.
She said: “As a kid I liked being scared, probably because I came from a very safe, middle class Midwestern happy home that I could venture into those places as I knew I could come back to a different spot.”
Literary influences include Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby. And she revealed in a recent interview, that the first grown up book she read, was Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
She said: “I’ve always had an interest in why bad things happen, and the darker side of personalities and why people end up doing wrong. My books are so character driven, that interests me more than the mystery itself.”