Gillian Flynn's wildly successful Gone Girl helped spawn a batch of best-selling mystery novels featuring complex female protagonists. That was sweet revenge for Flynn, whose first novel, Sharp Objects, had been turned down by publishers who didn't think people wanted to read stories about less-than-perfect women. Now, Sharp Objects has been adapted as a limited series, debuting Sunday on HBO, starring Amy Adams.
"What I really wanted to write about was the darker side of the female psyche," Flynn says. "You know — female violence and female rage — what made us do bad things, why we messed up, why we became violent and particularly what that looked like generationally."
That desire led Flynn to create the character of Camille Preaker, a reporter struggling with depression, alcoholism and a history of self-injury and cutting. Camille's newspaper editor sends her back to her Missouri hometown to cover the stories of two girls — one missing, one murdered. The assignment lands her back in a world dominated by her mother, a southern belle of the iron butterfly variety.
Flynn describes her book as a murder mystery wrapped around a character study — not just a "whodunit" but also a "who is she?" The novelist wants the audience to be as interested in understanding Camille as they are in unraveling the mystery.
"You start learning that there are certain secrets and awfulness that happened to her all throughout her childhood," Flynn says. "And there are certain things that she has never wanted to look at too closely. ... She inflicts this violence, this anger and this hatred upon herself."