EW's former TV critic, the author of ''Gone Girl'' and previous best-sellers ''Sharp Objects'' and ''Dark Places,'' reveals what it's like to write novels about sociopaths

By Stephan Lee
May 25, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT
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How did you come up with the premise for Gone Girl?

I wanted to write about marriage. In my first two books, my protagonists were single almost to the point of not having much attachment to anyone else in the world. I wanted to explore the opposite — when you willingly yoke yourself to someone for life, and what happens when it starts going wrong. I’m playing with the idea of courtship as a con game: You want this other person to like you, so you’re never going to show them your worst side until it’s too late.

The novel is a genre mash-up: It’s part domestic drama, part crime thriller.

You’re right. There are no bodies or accumulation of murders. The suspense comes from this married couple, Nick and Amy, and trying to figure out who to believe. It’s a he-said/she-said tug-of-war.

It also feels like a riff on one of those Dateline mysteries.

I’m a true-crime addict. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but I can’t stop. You watch those shows like everyone else does. A wife goes missing; you assume that the husband did it. To me, that was a very interesting idea.

Part of the fun of Gone Girl is choosing sides. Team Amy or Team Nick?

Right! At any given moment, whoever’s perspective I was writing was whose side I was on. Obviously — without giving too much away — neither of them always does the right thing. Let’s put it that way. [Laughs] At the same time, they started from a place where they both thought that they’d found their soul mates. I can’t think of anything more crushing than slowly, over time, realizing exactly how wrong you were about someone.

What did your husband think about the book?

First he bought me flowers. ”Is everything all right, honey?” [Laughs] No, he was gangbusters about it. He didn’t want me to change anything on his account.

It wasn’t ever strange to immerse yourself in such a dark couple and then shift right back into your own life at dinnertime?

I would write certain scenes in my basement office and hear my husband moving around upstairs, and I’d tell myself, ”Shake it off, Flynn. Keep the crazy downstairs.” I should put that on a T-shirt.

You’re a former pop culture writer. What movies were you thinking about while you were writing the novel?

It’s a play that became a movie, but definitely Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? [left]. The dialogue is so great. Also The War of the Roses, which is one of the best black comedies ever. I went back to watch it and was glad to see it’s still as maddening and sad and hilarious as I remembered it.

How do you feel about Amy Adams [right] playing Libby in the adaptation of your last novel, Dark Places?

I couldn’t dream of someone more fantastic. We have an official director, Gilles Paquet-Brenner, and he’s really dedicated to it. I’ve read the screenplay, and it’s awesome. I worked at EW because I loved movies, TV, and books, so for me to actually get a book to be a movie would be pretty much the coolest thing.

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