When Gillian Flynn sat down to write her novel "Dark Places," she really, truly tried to center the story on a less troubled female protagonist, but that just wasn't in the cards. "In the first draft, I was like, 'I'm not going to write another dark female narrator.' And the Libby I created was just ridiculous," Flynn explains. "She was more, 'We're going to solve this murder! Let's go!' Really optimistic. Like a jazzercise instructor. Ludicrous. So I just erased her and started over again, with the opening line of the book: 'I have a meanness inside of me.' Then I really had her."
It may sound crazy, given Flynn's success with novels that portray darkly complicated, complex female characters, but that approach was something of a tough sell early on.
"When I first started writing my first book, 'Sharp Objects,' I was writing it with a little sense of a vacuum of interesting female characters — in particular female anti-heroes," Flynn says. "We got turned down by quite a few places that said, 'Women aren't going to read about a woman they don't like. And men will definitely not want to read about a woman who's bad.' And to me, I was like, 'What era is this?'"
Those publishers are likely kicking themselves now, since Flynn followed "Sharp Objects" up with the novels "Dark Places" and "Gone Girl." That bestseller became a hit film from David Fincher, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike — with a script adaptation by Flynn herself — and now "Dark Places" has hit theaters, starring Charlize Theron as Libby, the troubled woman revisiting the horrific murder of her family when she was a child.