CHICAGO MAGAZINE CULTURE FESTIVAL

When I received an email about the upcoming Chicago magazine‘s inaugural Culture Festival, I was immediately interested. Why? Well, it featured 5 programs – Architecture, Literature, Theater, Comedy, and Music. Each program had a notable star speaker; each an expert in their field, each very interesting.

My eyes quickly found a name that I knew: GILLIAN FLYNN. I knew I had to attend the Literature program. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, let me say this: GONE GIRL. Yes, Gillian Flynn is the genius author behind one of 2014’s biggest movies. I was a fan long before that, though. I read all of her books, back to back, and finished each in just a few reading sessions. To say that she’s a talented writer is an understatement. Once you start her books, you can’t put them down until you’re done.

So, this past Saturday I made my way over to the beautiful Venue SIX10 to check out the program. We arrived about 15mins early and were able to snag a spot in the front row. Yes, I was geeked out, as they say.

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Once Gillian Flynn was announced and took a seat on stage, the conversation was so well-moderated and flowed naturally from topic to topic. She had so much knowledge, both professional and personal, and immediately made the audience feel at home.

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Her writing inspiration stems from classic Hitchcock films, where the plot unravels gradually and you never quite know for sure what the ending will be until it arrives. Each book to date has been set in a small towns.  They’re great for thriller writers for two reasons: 1) small towns prevent the character from changing much, and 2) small towns have a branding nature to them. That said, it’s difficult for the characters to reinvent themselves easily, or to escape their flaws and issues. As in the case of Amy, in Gone Girl, she couldn’t hide in a big city but had to literally fake her death/kidnapping in order to reinvent herself.

Flynn thinks briefly about the topics she wants to feature in each book, from a high level. She knew that in ‘Sharp Objects’, she wanted to focus on female relationships and the violence that can be within them. With ‘Gone Girl’, she focused on marriage, relationships and wanted a dual narrator approach. Each character is developed as the draft progresses, and the story is changed quite a bit along the way. Each book has some very sad characters, in that they either are inadequate in life, or are severely flawed. As an author, Flynn has empathy for all of her characters. No doubt, being able to do that makes her the author that she is. Each character’s personality is clear and hits you in some way.

With ‘Gone Girl’ being so widely popular, both as the book and movie as it’s companion piece, Flynn is a busy woman! She is currently working on her next project, ‘Utopia’, set right here in Chicago. She is co-writing the script with Steve McQueen (director of ‘12 Years a Slave‘). Next year, she’ll begin work on her next novel.

She says, “the Chicago writing scene is very welcoming”. Well, Gillian Flynn, Chicago welcomes you with open arms and can’t wait for your next projects.

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