Watch Gillian Flynn in action above
'Dark Places' follows the chilling story of Libby Day (Charlize Theron) who was only eight years old when her family were brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. Almost thirty years later, she agrees to revisit the crime and uncovers the heart-wrenching truths that led up to that tragic night. Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron and a supporting cast of leading Hollywood talent including Nicholas Hoult, Christina Hendricks and Chloë Grace Moretz star in this nail-biting thriller.
Gillian Flynn talks to HuffPostUK about how her own experience of growing up in Kansas influenced her story, and how being a heavy metal fan helped...
Can you begin by telling us a little bit about Dark Places which is out in cinemas 22nd January?
'Dark Places' centres on a character named Libby Day who is about 31 years old and hasn’t done anything in her life except for one notorious thing which is that she was the survivor of a murder than happened when her entire family was slaughtered one night at their Kansas farmhouse and she was a seven-year-old who managed to escape and not only did she escape but she escaped and fingered her eldest brother, Ben, as a sort of devil-worshipping crazy guy who killed the family. So for years now all she’s been doing is kind of sleeping and eating and lying around and living off the dregs of this trust fund that had been set up for her at the time of the murders and she becomes involved in kind of an underground society who investigates unsolved murders or mysteries and that sort of thing, and this group has become very interested in this case – the murder of the Day family.
They really don’t think that her brother Ben did it, as do apparently a lot of people think that he was railroaded because he was the outsider kid and that sort of thing. So she starts to investigate, finally, for the first time in her life think about these murders. Starts kind of recontacting key figures in the case who will talk to her because she is who she is. And while that investigation is going on, the story jumps back and forth to the actual day of the murders in 1985 from the point of view of both Libby’s mother, who was hatcheted to death, and her brother as he goes through his day. And it’s kind of the different choices that are made and what really happened that day.
How did what you experience growing up in Kansas influence 'Dark Places'?
The idea that there was this really rise of Satanism and that was a really true thing that was happening, always kind of fascinated me. I wanted to come back to that again, you know, the fact that if you listened to the wrong kind of music that you were a suspect and that sort of thing and also during the research for 'Dark Places', you know, I went on eBay and I combed all sorts of old auction sites and what actually… helper videos, you know, videos that they would give to teachers and parents of how to spot devil worshippers, things to look for in case your next door neighbour could be a devil worshipper and that sort of thing. That they would interview law enforcement people, actually policemen, who would say, oh yeah, there’s a coven in our town and that sort of thing, not that that doesn’t happen in some places or it has happened, but the fact that it was considered a really commonplace thing was what kind of fascinated me.
You were just saying about the heavy metal aspect of it. Were you a heavy metal fan before you started writing this or is that something that you’ve researched and have got into whilst you were writing? Can you just talk a bit about that?
You know there are these bands: Iron Maiden and Slayer and Venom. I love them. I grew up like really into this kind of hard rock sort of thing. That pounding music and the lyrics were always kind of so scary and violent and I loved it and even getting into just the writing of the story was actually really fun because I got to pull out some of my old albums and download a bunch of stuff on my iPod and really, you know, conjured up for me these very good memories of sitting around in someone’s basement, just head rocking, so I have a real fondness for that kind of music actually and my poor iPod, I’ll have a dinner party and have on like soothing Norah Jones or something like that and then all of a sudden it’s like Raining Blood and anti-Christ or something, which some people don’t find soothing for dinner party music, but so I researched it a little bit more but mainly it’s not even about the technical aspect of this sort of music. It’s more what it means to love this music and what it means in some communities back then and even now, this was considered the music that you don’t listen to.
We meet lots of different characters in Dark Places because of the way the story is told, and although they’re all fascinating and engrossing, they’re perhaps quite difficult in some ways.
For me, I’m really drawn to characters that are not likeable. I don’t know, I have a lot of people that are likeable in my life so it’s like when I read I’m always more interested in darker characters and I’m never someone who is interested in the person who’s at the centre of anything but the person who’s kind of over here and a little bit off or struggling and to me that’s what’s always interesting. I started writing Libby, my main character, and started out trying to make her just really nice, like a really nice person, and I got about a halfway through my first draft and I was like, I don’t actually like this likeable person. First of all, it doesn’t make sense that she had survived all this and was actually as stable as I was trying to write her, as normal. It didn’t make sense. And I kind of started thinking about really what that would do to a person survive, having seen their family killed like that, believing that their brother did it, never – and again it comes back to that idea of poverty and the idea of what it does to you: never have enough money, never quite be able to make ends meet, a lifetime of that where you’re always constantly on the edge and the exhaustion of that. And so she is a little bit of a kleptomaniac. She has this fondness for taking other people’s things. It says in the book she likes other people’s things because it comes with other people’s history and I really think that she doesn’t do it just to be mean, she does it because it’s like well that’s someone’s grandma’s set of pearls. I wish I had a grandma who… So she has that. She’s not a nice person. The opening sentence of the book is, “I have a meanness inside me” and I think she really does struggle with that knowing and kind of believing she has some bad blood in her. And to me the struggle to be good is much more interesting than the goodness itself.
Was it integral for you to set the novel in Kansas or could it have taken place anywhere?
For me I really wanted to set the story in the middle of Kansas for a couple of reasons. First of all the Kansas Missouri, you’re right in the centre of the United States, is such an underused, underknown kind of place. I spent a lot of my life in either Manhattan or Los Angeles and, you know, outside of the central part of the United States it’s almost exotic. Like, you’re from where? Are you joking? Their idea is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, it’s kind of the only framework that they have of Kansas. And so to me it’s this kind of place where it is so under-represented in fiction that I think it strikes people as interesting and you can play around a lot more with the mythology of it than you can with say something that’s set in Manhattan or Brooklyn, which you’ve at least seen it in movies or that sort of thing. So I really wanted to do that. And of course Kansas is the site of the Truman Capote book In 'Cold Blood', which I just think is such a massive, fascinating and important work and so that was a little bit of my ode to that idea, the farmhouse and Kansas, and the mythology of it. You know, Kansas is a place where there are a lot of… the Kansas Missouri area, there are a lot of famed murders and murderers and Libby talks about growing up and going to Dodge City where there’s Wyatt Earp and all the Westerns and by the end she’s at Jesse James’ farmhouse. Jesse James this famous cold-blooded killer became famous and so to me that was kind of true to the idea that so much of 'Dark Places' is about the mythology of murder and how a single murder can take on a life because so many different people are projecting their thoughts onto it that Kansas was a very good spot to set it.
Following 'Gone Girl' and 'Dark Places', 'Sharp Objects' is also being made into a film and I just wondered if you could give us a bit of an update on how that’s going. Whether there’s any film news you can tell us?
Yeah, right now with 'Sharp Objects', the film rights have been sold to Pathé and I am just finishing writing the screenplay for it, which is very fun to get to revisit again and try to really break it down and figure out how to make the book work as a movie because the book is a lot of it is very internalised, it’s a lot of thoughts and memories and that sort of thing and how do you put that on the screen. So it’s be a fun little jigsaw puzzle almost.
'Dark Places' is available on Blu-ray™ and DVD from today, 22nd February 2016