Admiring Women in Entertainment: Gillian Flynn

Admiring Gillian Flynn for her thrilling novels. Illustration by: Maddie Bataille | Photo Editor

Despite only having three novels and one short story under her belt, “Dark Places,” “Gone Girl,” “Sharp Objects” and “The Grownup,” Gillian Flynn has nonetheless proven herself to be one of the most popular and important female authors working today. 

After all, how many authors have had an entire cruise set up around the concept of one of their books? I can’t think of many. And since Flynn is currently working on her fourth novel, I think now is an important time to discuss what Gillian Fynn excels at and why she is as important as she is.

Authors have the ability to take their time on their projects, something that very other few forms of art have. Movies have deadlines and run into new problems every single day, television shows are the same and YouTube has to deal with the ever-changing algorithm. 

Authors get to take things at their own pace and sit with their story for as long as they like. Gillian Flynn seems to take full advantage of this ability. Her first novel, “Sharp Objects” was published in 2006 and each subsequent story was published three years later, “Dark Places” in 2009, “Gone Girl” in 2012 and “The Grownup” in 2015.

Flynn, who writes under the mystery/thriller genre, seems to benefit greatly from being able to sit with her stories and really plan them out, something particularly important for stories that revolve around twists and revelations and finding the guilty party. Unfortunately, I had seen the adaptations of both “Sharp Objects” and “Gone Girl” before reading the books. 

Yet, despite knowing what I knew, it was still fascinating to see just how easily Flynn dangles the twist right in front of the reader’s eyes without them having any idea until she is ready to drop the bomb on them. Even her 66 page short story has multiple twists that are hard to see coming and it makes for a very engaging and satisfying reading experience.

Flynn has also had success with her aforementioned adaptations. “Sharp Objects” was released as a limited series on HBO and was nominated for eight Emmy awards. “Gone Girl” was a film written by Flynn herself which received four Golden Globe nominations and an Oscar nomination for best actress. “Dark Places” is a bit of a black sheep when compared to the other two, the film is not nearly as effective or impactful, but is still a very faithful adaptation from a story and character perspective, which is something that not all authors can say for their adaptations.

Many other authors have discussed Flynn’s novels as well, both in interviews and by putting their opinions on the back covers of her books for people to see. Recommendations by other authors can make a big difference in the success of a book. So when Stephen King called Flynn’s first novel “admirably nasty” and said that, even after finishing the novel it stayed in his mind “like a snake in a cave, coiled and hissing” such quotes were slapped on the back cover and printed out for the whole world to see.

Flynn also influences other, less popular, authors. Megan Miranda, who also writes in the mystery/thriller genre, said in an interview about which storytellers she finds inspirational.

“I am a big fan of Gillian Flynn…[she writes] sharp-edged character driven stories with haunting prose, brimming with tension. I love the mysteries [she] constructs, but even more than that, I’m always so fascinated by [her] characters,” Miranda said once. Not only is Flynn respected by those around her, but she also helps other authors find their voice.

What I think might be the most important aspect to Flynn’s novels is the content within them and the refreshing and frank sexuality present in all of them. I’ll keep the language from getting too raunchy here, but Flynn’s novels are heavily sexual but in a specific kind of way. There are intimate scenes but they never feel particularly loving. In fact, none of Flynn’s novels are particularly uplifting or positive, there are no storybook endings here. Flynn writes sex from a blunt and unflinchingly honest female perspective and that kind of topic and lens is needed.

Flynn has also crafted some extremely unsettling stories. I still stand by my statement that the last thirty pages or so of “Sharp Objects” is the scariest thing I have ever read.

So as we enter Women’s Month, try to pick up one of Flynn’s novels and dive into one of the most important and successful female authors of our time.