Write Away

Sarah Ryan | June 25, 2018 | Feature Features

Blockbuster author Gillian Flynn shares the struggle to get her first novel to the screen, what she is working on now and why she loves to call Chicago home.
Gillian Flynn, who won a Hollywood Film Award for screenwriting for Gone Girl, has now adapted Sharp Objects for HBO.

For years, Gillian Flynn says, people shied away from adapting her first novel, Sharp Objects, for the screen, but now with an HBO limited-series set to premiere July 8 starring Amy Adams and helmed by Big Little Lies’ Jean-Marc VallĂ©e, it seems that the delay was fortuitous. “Sharp Objects has some dark issues in it, particularly dealing with women’s violence and women’s anger, and I don’t think people cared to look at it for a long time. But finally, 12 years after the novel came out, the case has been made that we are interested in discussing that,” Flynn says. “And then Amy came on board, and it felt as if this book was waiting for her.”

Flynn has enjoyed expanding to movies and TV (she is currently working on Amazon series Utopia and, yes, she promises, her next book), and she found revisiting Sharp Objects particularly rewarding. The limited-series format allows her to dig deeper into the story of Camille Preaker, a reporter who returns to her hometown to investigate two murders. “This format works so well for Sharp Objects because even though it is the shortest of my novels, it is the trickiest—it is really a character study hidden inside of a mystery,” she says. “To me, it is as much of a ‘who is she?’ as it is a ‘whodunit?’”

Indeed, Flynn is known for exploring the darker sides of her female characters. “I think it is a really dangerous thing to believe that women can’t be evil or that they don’t have rage and do bad things. That keeps women in a place where they are expected to be flawless. We are much more complex than that,” she says. “Until we allow that dark side in with the light side, we’re not really seen as fully human.”

While her projects take her far and wide, Flynn loves returning home to Chicago. “I love that the people are real,” she says. “I love the amazing character of the neighborhoods. Whenever I need to clear my head in the middle of the workday, I roam around the streets of Chicago. I never fail to see something interesting that ignites my imagination.”


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