The Daily Northwestern

Medill alumna sells screen rights to best-selling novel

Gillian Flynn, Medill graduate, topped the New York Times Best Sellers list this summer with her third novel, “Gone Girl.” The novel will be adapted into a movie produced by Reese Witherspoon.

Photo courtesy of Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn, Medill graduate, topped the New York Times Best Sellers list this summer with her third novel, “Gone Girl.” The novel will be adapted into a movie produced by Reese Witherspoon.

Cat Zakrzewski, Assistant Campus Editor

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A Medill alumna this summer inked a seven figure deal to turn her bestselling book into a film.

Gillian Flynn (MSJ ’97) topped The New York Times Best Sellers list with her third novel, “Gone Girl.”

The novel will be adapted into a movie produced by Reese Witherspoon, following a summer auction for the film rights that 20th Century Fox won, according to Deadline.com.

“It’s been pretty amazing,” Flynn said. “To have it break out like this has been great.”

“Gone Girl” is a psychological thriller about Amy, a woman who goes missing in a Missouri town on her wedding anniversary. When her husband Nick begins acting suspiciously, the police and media begin to doubt his innocence in her mysterious disappearance. Flynn weaves a portrait of a terribly damaged marriage through accounts from Nick and Amy’s diaries.

Flynn recently began working on the screenplay for the film adaptation.

“I’ve spent the past week dismantling the book,” Flynn said. “I’ve been taking the pieces apart and put them together in a different way.”

Flynn said her time at Northwestern helped her “find her place.”

“I floated a lot as an undergraduate,” Flynn said. “I remember finally getting to this community of people who wanted to be writers.”

Although Flynn said she spent the majority of her time at the Chicago campus of Northwestern, she did remember making a trip to The Keg of Evanston during her time at Medill.

Jon Ziomek, the former assistant dean and director of Medill’s editorial master’s degree programs, said he was happy for Flynn’s success.

“I remember Gillian as a smart and capable person who threw herself full-speed into the master’s program,” Ziomek wrote in an email to The Daily. “If Gillian’s instructors at Medill were helpful to her as she developed her professional voice, then I’m happy to have been a part of that process.”

Flynn’s training as a journalist has shaped her novels, she said. Prior to her literary career, Flynn wrote for Entertainment Weekly.

“Being a journalist, for me, was really integral,” Flynn said. “Journalism teaches you a real sense of dialogue.”

Flynn said her experience in journalism allowed her to write concisely and that “the pure doggedness a journalist needs” helped her in the writing process.

“The most challenging part for me is to try to figure out what it is that you’re writing,” Flynn said. “It’s difficult when you spend all day writing and none of it is technically useful, but it helps you get a little bit closer to what you want.”

Flynn’s journalism experience also played a role in shaping her characters in “Gone Girl.” Both Nick and Amy were successful journalists living in New York  laid off during the recession. Flynn said she was laid off from her own job at Entertainment Weekly and watched many of her colleagues experience the same struggle.

“Nick was similar in that sense,” Flynn said. “There was that time there in the recession where it seemed like there was a phone call about someone losing their job everyday.”

Flynn said many were struggling with what they would do if positions as writers no longer existed, and her characters in the novel reflect this struggle.

Despite these problems, Flynn noted the industry seems to be turning around and advised young writers to stay determined.

“If you want to find a place to write, you’ll find a place to write,” she said. “Attitude is a really key thing. That’s what separates one talented person from another talented person.”

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About the Writer
Cat Zakrzewski, In Focus Editor

Cat Zakrzewski is the In Focus editor of The Daily and a Medill junior. Her past positions include assistant summer editor, Campus editor, Holiday Guide...