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BackRoom

Gillian Flynn: “Dread Is Probably My Favorite Emotion”

The Gone Girl author, 47, on her next book, #MeToo perils, and why “my DNA is splattered in every corner of New York.”

Illustration by Stavros Damos
Illustration: Stavros Damos

I’ve nurtured my dark side very carefully. I’m not someone who’s ever wanted to get rid of my demons. I don’t want them to take over, but I couldn’t empathize with my screwed-up and dark characters and disturbed narrators unless I had pieces of them.

When my cousins and I wanted to play, I was the kid who was like, “I’ll be the bad guy.” I knew instinctively that the bad guy’s the one with the backstory.

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who want to look under the rock and people who don’t. I was always like, “What’s under the rock?”

Dread is probably my favorite emotion. I don’t necessarily love being the-cat-jumping-out-of-the-cabinet scared. But I love that slow-boil dread of, “Something’s wrong here. I don’t know what it is.”

The three films that freaked me out the most as a kid were Alien, The Elephant Man, and The Great Santini. During The Great Santini, I was sobbing so hard for Toomer, they had to send an usher down to tell my parents I was going to have to leave the theater.

I fought the Hollywood coddling. I have that stubborn Missouri thing, like, “Don’t need any of your fancy business. Nothing’s changed here.” I spent a year being a little too fucked up about it. I was reassuring all my friends who didn’t need any reassurance that I was not gonna become a cunty diva. I wish I had been able to let myself enjoy it more. Because I worked my fucking ass off.

Scott Turow once told me something along the lines of, “You’ve just been strapped to a rocket. Hold on tight, enjoy the ride, and don’t take it too seriously. It’s a small, weird club, and I’m there if you need me.”

I was nursing all while the Gone Girl movie premiere was happening. My DNA is splattered in every corner of New York. This poor assistant from 20th Century Fox was literally in charge of running behind me with all my breast-pumping gear. When you don’t have to carry your own breast-pumping gear is when you know you’ve made it.

I’m about halfway through a solid first draft of my next novel. It’s very sinister and dark, and there are definitely some funny pieces to it. Brett, my husband, has read the first page, which is a fucking spectacular first page. It’s the greatest first page that’s ever been written.

When you’re writing one of the darker portions, it sort of gets to you a little bit—as it should if you are fully invested in it. At the end of the day, so that I don’t bring that upstairs to my family, I put on Donald O’Connor and “Make ’Em Laugh.”

We’re becoming very, very delicate as a society. People are making an art form out of taking offense.

The Me Too movement is extremely important. But I don’t ever want to get to a point where men and women can’t have a conversation because the men are so frightened about offending the women that we all have to have Mother Pence with us to make sure everything is OK.

I’ve never finished a Mary Karr book because I feel like I should be able to write like Mary Karr. We’re of a similar ilk, but she’s so much better than I am that it makes me insane. I start over and over again, and I’m like, “Fuck you, Mary Karr!” And also because her writing makes my husband swoon, so I can never forgive her for that. Watching another writer seduce your husband is a horrible thing.

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