What do blockbuster authors discuss with one another? Books, of course. But it goes much deeper than that, delving into character, playlists for writing, input from fans, and of course the writing process. Karin Slaughter, whose most recent novel Unseen just landed at #10 on the New York Times hardcover best seller list chatted with Gillian Flynn, whose Gone Girl seems to have taken up permanent residence on that same list.
Karin Slaughter: If you could take any one literary character (not your own) and put it in one of your books, who would it be?
Gillian Flynn: I remember reading Thackeray’s Vanity Fair when I was in college and Becky Sharp became an immediate favorite. So manipulative! So clever! So immoral! So charming! One of the all-time great anti-heroes. I think if I dropped her into Gone Girl, she and Amy Dunne would become best friends, and shortly thereafter sworn enemies.
They're both such chilling little winners. They'd admire each other at first—and then they'd tire of the alpha-girl competition and each would start making plans to dispatch the other. Elaborate, complex, frightening plans.
If you could take one of your characters and drop him or her into another author's book, which character and which book would it be?
KS: It'd be a tie between Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter and the grandmother from Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find. If I wrote about Hester, she'd probably be an alcoholic detective who's searching for the baby she gave up for adoption while simultaneously trying to figure out who committed a series of horrendous crimes.
What's funny to me is that in Unseen and Gone Girl, we've both chosen strong-willed women who paid for it in the end. To a certain degree, your previous books were about the same (neither Camille Preaker nor Libby Day end up singing about “Mr. Bluebird on their shoulders”). I've done the same thing, too--Lena has had some fairly horrendous experiences and her reward for that has been…more horrendous experiences! Amy Dunne, on the other hand, totally wins in Gone Girl. Was that on purpose or did it just work out that way?
Second: Oh yeah, it was completely on purpose. Amazing Amy is never not going to win. That's what she's built to do. She will find a way. And she's not a win-win kind of girl. She's very zero-sum: I must win...and more importantly, you must lose.
I'm so happy that Lena is coming back. You must have a very intense relationship with your series characters. Do you find yourself thinking about them even when you're not writing? Lena wasn't in last year's Criminal, but I wonder if you kind of knew in the back of your mind what she was up to?
KS: I can’t really recall a time in the past decade when I haven’t been thinking about series characters. In a lot of ways, I envy you because with each book, you get to start over from scratch and put new characters in new settings and you don’t have to remember how old they were in the last book or whether you turn left or right to get into their driveway. It seems like you devote just as much headspace to yours, though, so you probably know what it’s like to live with other people in your brain all of the time. It’s a good thing we’re not in the psych ward.