Wednesday, July 20, 2016

GONE GIRL'S Mom and Me

By Kay Kendall

Author of GONE GIRL Gillian Flynn (left), me on the right
Every few years a new book bursts on the scene and throws the crime novel genre into a tizzy. These are big books that sell millions, remain on bestseller lists for months and months, get remade as movies, and establish new trends in reading.

In recent memory three enormous crime novels have burst forth from publishers in North America. Dan Brown's THE DA VINCI CODE hit in 2003, revivifying the thriller sub-genre. Stieg Larsson’s GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO came to America from Sweden in September 2008, the first of a four-part series. And in June 2012 came the diabolically plotted GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn.
My favorite among these mega-sellers, by far, is GONE GIRL. I admire the author’s ability to fashion such an intricate yet entertaining plot. As a writer myself, plotting is not my long suit, so I’m awed by someone whose talents in that area are masterful.
Online comments about this book amaze me. So many readers profess to dislike the book and to loathe the two main characters, yet the darned thing stayed a bestseller for ages. In 2014 GONE GIRL was made into a film that opened to fine reviews. The author wrote the screen play. GONE GIRL's popularity was so immense that it sent her two previous novels up the bestseller charts too--SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACES.
Back then, in the midst of all this hoopla about GONE GIRL, I thumbed through the latest edition of my undergrad alma mater’s monthly magazine and found—lo and behold—an article about Gillian Flynn. Because I knew little about her, I stopped to read the story, thinking she must have made a presentation at the University of Kansas. Why else were they profiling her? Then I did a double take, and then a triple take.
Gillian Flynn graduated from the same school I did. Who knew?! Not only was KU the alma mater of the famed mystery writer Sara Paretsky, and of me (not so famous), but it was also Ms. Flynn’s. I was so proud I burst into a short rendition of the school cheer, Rock Chalk, right on the spot. (I scared my dog.)
Because I attend three large mystery and thriller conferences each year, I have the chance to see many fine and famous authors. Some are on the circuit and easy to find. For example, every summer I see author David Morrell, and I have blogged about meeting him, the father of RAMBO. A few authors never seem to appear at conferences. Ms. Flynn is not on the circuit.

Author Karin Slaughter (left) interviews Gillian Flynn (right)
Then last summer the International Thriller Writers announced its lineup of headline authors for ThrillerFest 2016. And there she was. Gillian Flynn. For an entire year I looked forward to hearing her talk about her life and life’s work. I’m delighted to say that she did NOT disappoint.
At the conference in New York City on July 8, author Karin Slaughter interviewed Ms. Flynn for an hour. Because they are long-time friends, their talk was free and easy. Emphasis on easy, even tiptoeing into truly raunchy territory. If you’ve seen the film BRIDESMAIDS, then you know whereof I speak.
Several things Ms. Flynn said stuck in my mind. First, she attributed her penchant for writing dark, dark stories to her upbringing. Her parents were college teachers, and her father (a film professor) shared scary movies with her at a young age. She explained during the interview, “When I turned seven, he said, ‘I think you are now ready to see PSCYHO.’”
That explains a lot, doesn’t it?
Ms. Flynn also noted that when she meets readers, they often say to her, “Oh, you seem so normal.” Well, exactly! I sat in the audience and thought that very same thing. Her normalcy, she says, comes from her Midwestern upbringing (hometown, Kansas City). Her fiction writing comes from her dose of heavy-duty adult film and reading material, started very early.
Of course I stood in line to have her sign a copy of GONE GIRL for me. I bought a second one just for that purpose. We had a nice chat, and she said, when asked, of course she recalls KU’s Rock Chalk chant.
Now Gillian Flynn is hard at work on the follow-up to her mega bestseller and professed to feeling some pressure. I wished her well and went off happily, my signed copy of GONE GIRL clutched to my chest.
If you are interested in more detail about Gillian Flynn, here is more background about her, written in her own words.
(Note: She pronounces her first name with a hard G. As in gill, like a fish.

Kay Kendall lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. In her former life as a PR executive, Kay’s projects won international awards. And she studied lots and lots of history in school, and loves it still! In fact that's why she writes historical mysteries.


  1. Thank you. I felt like I was there at that session at the ITW conference. Watching Psycho at age seven? Interesting. I know what it did to me as a grown woman.

    1. Thanks, Linda. The minute I heard Gillian Flynn's line about PSYCHO, everything was explained.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Kay! I'm just now (finally!) reading Gone Girl myself. I'm teaching a course in Women of Mystery at George Mason University--looking back at some of the earliest writers like Mary Fortune and Anna Katherine Greene, but also working toward the present--so it seemed like I *needed* to have Flynn's book read too. Enjoying it greatly--and enjoyed the post here too!

    1. Thanks, Art. GONE GIRL is definitely a book to take account of in your course. It spawned so many others.

  3. I will post a BUY link that you can use to order a CD of the 50-minute interview of Gillian Flynn, by author Karin Slaughter. As soon as I find it! It is well worth $10! Lots of juicy detail plus fun to hear!

    There is the web page where you can find all the MP3s (or CD format) for ThrillerFest sessions. Gillian Flynn's is in there, and it is well worth ten bucks!

  5. Thank you, Marilyn. Hearing Gillian Flynn talk--and meeting her briefly as she signed a copy of her mega-seller--may well be the highlight of my four trips to ThrillerFest. Among many.