Bestselling Novelist Gillian Flynn Reveals Her Writing Lair

People often ask me if I have a writing routine. The answer is: kind of.

Let me start with this caveat. I am not the world’s fastest writer. When I started Gone Girl, I was not pregnant. Then I was. Then I had a son. Then the son became a toddler. As it turns out, 16-month-olds do not understand the phrase: “Mother is not to be disturbed while she channels her muse, my sweet.” I couldn’t write anywhere around the house anymore. I needed a lair.

So my husband created a cozy little office for me on the bottom floor of our old Victorian house. You reach my cozy little office by going through an unfinished basement straight out of The Silence of the Lambs.

It’s seriously the scariest 20 square foot of space you’ve ever seen: cracked cement floor, strangely stained stone walls, dripping sinks, a scattering of ancient tools. My husband and I refer to it as “the hell pit.” (So, in answer to the question: Do I ever scare myself when I write? Yes, and you would too if you worked next to a hell pit.)

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I drink my coffee and I stare at the computer screen and listen to a little music to wake up. I usually get obsessed with one song. During Gone Girl, when I had both a newborn and a looming deadline and the writing was going very, very poorly, I went through a panicky stage where – for fortification – I’d dance around to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” each morning. This was exactly as poignant as it sounds.

I write for a long time, and then I stop. I’m a staunch believer in pottering about – I’ve had some of my best writing epiphanies when I’m doing things that have nothing to do with writing. So I may play a round of Ms. Pac-man or Galaga. I rock at both. The high score reads: GIL GIL GIL GIL BXN (my husband) GIL GIL RFN (my husband pretending to be my cat). I should add that I dominate the scoreboard because, while I legitimately rock, I also cheat.

After videogames, I may take some time to manage my Netflix queue. I’m the daughter of a film professor; I wrote about movies for Entertainment Weekly for a decade – I give my queue almost as much attention and worry as I do my child. (Next up: The Wages of Fear. Also Gummo, which has been in my queue since 2006, and which at some point I should admit I will never watch.)

I write more. I may eat some chewy Sprees. I write more. I write about dark things, like murder and betrayal and toxic marriages and evil, so I try to be vigilant about shaking off the nastiness before I return to the “upstairs world.”

For this, there is nothing more reliable than the “Moses Supposes” number from Singin’ in the Rain. You can’t not be happy while watching Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly tapdance. As they would tell you, and I quote: “A mose is a mose! A rose is a rose! A toes is a toes! Hooptie, doodie doodle.”

Then I run through the hell pit and head home.

gillian-flynnGILLIAN FLYNN’s debut novel, Sharp Objects, was an Edgar Award finalist and the winner of two of Britain’s Dagger Awards. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Brett Nolan, their son, and a rather giant cat named Roy. In theory she is working on her next novel. In reality she is possibly playing Ms. Pac-Man in her basement lair. Gone Girl is available wherever books are sold.

Visit Gillian online at and on Facebook.

Watch Read It Forward’s video chat with Gillian Flynn in which she reveals where her evil female characters come from, why she lets her characters guide her through the writing process, and what her husband thought when he read Gone Girl!

About Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

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