Tag: gillian flynn

gillian flynn

These are a few of our favorite quotes.

Some writers string ordinary words together–a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph–in ways that have as much in common with what most of us read as Belgian lace does with the friendship bracelets I made in second grade. These writers capture scents from far away places so perfectly that I’m sure I can smell them; they paint settings with such detail that I’m certain I remember being there. They describe emotions I didn’t know I had until I read their words and feel that way, too. Michele’s question last week about which writers we’d like to spend time with led me to think about the writers whose words stay with us; the writers we can’t stop quoting. For me, The Princess Bride springs to mind (“Life is pain, anyone who says otherwise is obviously selling something!” and “As you wish…” and “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” and … ) So, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors to pick their favorite quotes. Being the writers and the readers they are, they had a lot to say. I contemplated editing for the sake of brevity, but decided the answers were all too good to cut.   Fellow writers and readers, I hope you enjoy these wonderful quotes as much as I do. When you’re finished reading, please add your own. These winter nights are long; and there’s nothing quite as wonderful as snuggling into a warm blanket and a good book. Robin: That’s a tough question. So many to choose from. I find at least one nugget in just about every book I read. A line that comes to mind, though, is from a poem in the Fellowship of The Ring by JRR Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Aside from the fact that it’s one of the most popular quotes ever written (and often misquoted), I remember it because it resonated with me when I first read it in middle school and it resonates with me still. When I was young, the line elicited the dreams I ultimately ended up living – I’ve traveled the world on a shoestring budget, first class, and in-between. I’ve partied with rock stars, watched meteor showers in a desert, spent a night in a major city jail, been chased by a bear. I’ve met lots of interesting people, loved fiercely, and suffered devastating losses. The Tolkien quote sums up my commitment to follow my passions wherever they may lead, no matter how humble, lofty, or fraught with various types of danger. Wanderer? You bet. Lost? Not yet. Cate: This is my fave in our genre of the last five years. GILLIAN FLYNN, Gone Girl: “Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl. Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them.  I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)” I read that at thirty and I felt like Gillian took my life between the ages 17 to 23, crumpled them up into a ball and threw them through a basketball hoop into the trash. I will never romanticize that period of pageantry for the opposite sex again. I never ate chili dogs, but I definitely pretended to like sports. I dated the MVP of the baseball team in college. For nearly four years, I pretended to like college baseball played with aluminum bats. You know what happens when someone hits a home run in college baseball? You hear a really loud ping and then you watch someone run around the field because in college ball you can’t get cocky and jog. Worse, I convinced myself I liked it. I sang the national anthem at nearly every game and cheered my a cappella nerd butt off because I thought that being a good woman meant accepting the inferiority of whatever you actually liked in order to be likeable. (The ex was also a painter… I actually liked that, though). So happy I grew up before I settled down with someone whom I was too insecure around to be me. Preach, Gillian. PREACH!!! Susan: Much as I love Christmas, it’s also a time when I remember those I have lost, especially my son, Will, who died almost 11 years ago. So when I read William Kreuger’s book, Ordinary Grace, about a family that experiences loss, I could have underlined just about every word in the book. This passage, that comes toward the end of the book, from a pastor’s funeral service, hit home:  “God never promised us an easy life. He never promised that we wouldn’t suffer, that we wouldn’t feel despair and loneliness and confusion and desperation. What he did promise was that in our suffering we would never be alone. And though we may sometimes make ourselves blind and deaf to his presence he is beside us and around us and within us always. We are never separated from his love. And he promised us something else, the most important promise of all. That there would be surcease. That there would be an end to our pain and our suffering and our loneliness, that we would be with him and know him, and this would be heaven.” I also like this one:  “And whether you believe in miracles or not, I can guarantee that you will experience one. It may not be the miracle you’ve prayed for. God probably won’t undo what’s been done. The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day.”  Paula: Ordinary Grace is one of my favorites, too. But I could never pick just one book. So I’ll go with what I’m reading right now. Right now I’m rereading The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco. Not only does Umberto Eco write a lot of quotable prose himself in this novel, he also quotes myriad saints, philosophers, and scripture, often in Latin, Greek, even Medieval German. So I am spending as much time looking up the translations (thank you, Google) as I am reading. Here are some of the best:“In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro.” I searched for quiet everywhere, and found it nowhere except in a corner with a book.“Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means…” “Mundus senescit.” The world grows old.“This, in fact, is the power of the imagination, which, combining the memory of gold with that of the mountain, can compose the idea of a golden mountain.” “Gott ist ein lauter Nichts, ihn rührt kein Nun noch Hier.” God is a pure nothing, neither Now nor Here touches Him.“Until then I had thought each book spoke of the things, human or divine, that lie outside books. Now I realized that not infrequently books speak of books: it is as if they spoke among themselves. In the light of this reflection, the library seemed all the more disturbing to me. It was then the place of a long, centuries-old murmuring, an imperceptible dialogue between one parchment and another, a living thing, a receptacle of powers not to be ruled by a human mind, a treasure of secrets emanated by many minds, surviving the death of those who had produced them or had been their conveyors.”“De hoc satis.” Enough of that. Tracee: Uh oh, the pressure is on. Tolkien? Eco? I am tempted to cheat and find a few quotes, but that would definitely not be in the spirit of the season – or of the question. I find myself loving lines in books I’m currently reading, but not necessarily to the point that I can quote them without looking. The lines I do remember off hand tend to come from books I read while young. Maybe my memory was simply better? However, I think that it is because so many concepts were new and resonated strongly. Because of this I remember lots of bits of Dickens and others, including the famous “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” line from Gone with the Wind. (“Frankly” was added for the movie, but that’s splitting hairs.) I read Gone with the Wind the summer before I turned eleven and it stayed with me. Scarlett was close enough to my own age for me to understand she was a girl up against the world, but also to see that she made mistake after mistake, grasping at dream worlds, torn between being who she wanted to be and who she thought others wanted her to be, and ultimately losing everything because of her own selfishness. It’s also fair to say that this may have led to my love of Russian literature – early indoctrination into inevitable tragic endings.  In this, I’m with Cate. We remember what informs us. It doesn’t have to be a line from the greatest literary mind, but something that speaks in that moment to our world.  Alexia: Does it have to be a book? Because my favorite source of quotes is Casablanca. Every. Single. Line. My favorites among favorite quotes are: Yvonne: Where were you last night?Rick: That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.Yvonne: Will I see you tonight?Rick: I never make plans that far ahead. Because I totally get Rick’s attitude. I love characters like Rick–good guys who either don’t realize they’re one of the good ones or who have been hurt and put up bad guy walls to protect themselves. It just takes the right redemptive moment to let the good guy shine through. My second favorite: Rick: And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.Captain Renault: That is my *least* vulnerable spot.And Third:
Ugarte: You despise me, don’t you?Rick: If I gave you any thought I probably would.Ugarte: You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca, but somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.(Yes, I like Renault and Ugarte, too.)  If I have to go with a book, Alice in Wonderland is my favorite.Curioser and curioser.We’re all mad here.Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison’ it is certain to disagree with you sooner or later.”Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. “I don’t see any wine,” she remarked. “There isn’t any,” said the March HareAnd (finally) “Oh frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!” which is from “Jabberwocky” which is from Alice Through the Looking Glass but it’s still Alice.Alice has always been my hero because she’s a fearless girl who goes on adventures and uses her own wits to get herself out of trouble. And Lewis Carroll was a genius–weird, but a genius–whose works are delightfully snarky. Michele: I love this question and the answers it is inspiring. There are so many, too many inspirational quotes from books that I love to chose just one. But the one that I like best reminds me about the folly of human relationships. It may be odd coming from a seasoned family law attorney, but Mr. Darcy’s beleaguered proposal to Elizabeth melts my heart. “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.’’ It reminds me that loving and being loved is the universal theme for all humans. I am a hopeless romantic. And now, please add your own favorites and why they resonate with you.

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Why do you write suspense?

As someone new to writing, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I’m drawn to write mysteries.  So, I thought I’d ask the experts: why do you write what you write?  Cate: I write suspense because I love the feeling of surprise when I learn something unexpected about a person, that in retrospect makes sense. I am also fascinated by the justifications people have for doing badthings. I like creating flawed characters that you feel for. Some of my favorite suspense writers are Gillian Flynn, Dennis Lehane, Ruth Ware, Stephen King, Fiona Barton, Herman Koch and Patricia Highsmith. Susan: I think I like mysteries so much because the writer has to interact with the reader. You’re always thinking: Will the reader guess this clue? Will she be surprised? Is it satisfying? There’s something about that interaction I find very appealing. I’ve heard some authors say that they write for themselves and don’t care if anyone reads it, but I’ve never felt that way. I also love the whole idea of good versus bad, even if there are lots of shades of gray. Tracee: I fell into suspense through old fashioned mysteries. I confess that I am still not ready for hard core scary (I recently saw a preview for the movie It based on Stephen King’s book and that couple of minutes was almost enough to make me leave the theater…. and this was at a matinee!). My preferred suspense writers are in the vein of Patrica Highsmith and more recently Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger. I suppose that I am driven to write in the mystery/suspense genre because that’s what I return to consistently as a reader. I like reading and writing about what people do, what they conceal and why, and how choices sometimes lead people away from their ‘ordinary’ lives.  Robin: I wrote my first ghost story at 8 years old, the cleverly titled “Haunted House on the Hill.” I don’t recall what inspired that particular story but my parents saved it because I also illustrated and hand-bound it with a cardboard-and-construction paper cover complete with spine title and back jacket copy. I think it’s somewhere in my attic now. Later in life, meaning junior high, I fell in love with Stephen King’s work but what drove me to start writing suspense myself was reading Dean Koontz’s Strangers when I was 20-something. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances seemed like a revelation. I wanted to see if I could write a novel-length page-turner. My first couple of attempts weren’t terrible but weren’t very good. They were great learning experiences, though. Something I didn’t expect was how much fun they are to write. I’ve been honing my crime-writing craft ever since.  Michele: I have always loved police procedurals, but for many of them the methodical, sometimes plodding unraveling of the mystery, is the draw. Not so for Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, which while challenging my skills at deductive reasoning, somehow rivet me. French’s lyrical writing lures me into her stories about ordinary people who find themselves tangled in awful circumstances that slowly become riveting. Without a contrived twist, French delivers a punch to the gut at the end that stays with me long after. Her writing inspires me to want to share that same kind of adventure for my own readers. “In the Woods” was her first book. Seven years later, I still wonder about what happened to – no, wait, no spoilers here. But wouldn’t I love to think I had a reader still challenged that many years later. I call that writing that stays with you and that is what I want to write. Alexia: Had to think about this one. Why crime fiction as opposed to other genres? I think because of my sense of justice. Every day I see real world examples of injustice, towards people, animals, the environment. Horrible people get away with being horrible and there’s nothing I, nor anyone else, can do about it. We can (and should) donate to causes, march in protests, sign petitions, rescue animals, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, heal the sick, soothe the afflicted, comfort the dying. Yet, for every good work we do, we turn around and see some gazillionaire put people trying to eke a living on minimum wage out of work so the gazillionaire can increase his profit margin and bring home a $50 million bonus instead of a $30 million bonus. Or sneak them across the border to do his laundry or pick his fruit then have them thrown back to a country they haven’t lived in for 10 or 20 years once he’s done with them. Or we see someone beaten up or shot or fired or evicted or denied the right to marry the person they love because someone else doesn’t like their skin color or religion or gender or sexual orientation. Or one puppy mill or dog fighting ring is shut down and 3 more pop up or some demonoid tortures a cat and posts the video online–and gets likes. Or school girls are kidnapped by fanatical creeps who think women shouldn’t be allowed to read– and then some newspaper reports our government has been funneling arms to that particular group of fanatics because they were more sympathetic to our agenda than the opposing group. Or some honest, hardworking person is denied health care because someone decided they weren’t worthy of not having to choose between rent and medicine or, let’s face it, that they weren’t worthy of living. And instead of sticking up for that person, narcissistic jerks take to social media to trumpet about how they’ve got theirs so they don’t give a fuck about anyone else and expect to be applauded for being cold-blooded vultures. Or someone has to travel for miles to get drinkable water because the stuff from their tap is loaded with lead or live in the shadow of a pipeline that won’t benefit them but will certainly poison them if it leaks, all because they’re too poor to buy the political clout to send the mess to someone else’s neighborhood. Or they lose the home that’s been in their family for generations because people with more money suddenly decide their neighborhood is the place to be–as long as the original residents are forced out with sky-high property taxes and restrictive ordinances. We fight and fight and fight and bleed and fight some more and help the ones we can, maybe even save a few but, at the end of the day we have to accept that some things are beyond our control. Except in crime fiction. In crime fiction, I control the world I write. I can create justice. The unrepentant bad guy will go down. The underdog will have his day. Revenge will be had on the cat-torturing, woman-hating, narcissistic, bigot. In crime fiction, the devil may think he’s gotten away with something but by the last page, the angels will have the last word. (Here ends the rant.)      

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The Better Book Battle: Mystery Fiction vs. Literary Fiction.

There’s been renewed debate, recently, about the relative value of mystery fiction vs. its “literary” counterpart thanks to a self-described “passing remark” by Notre Dame English professor William O’Rourke that disparaged the mystery writing community as suffering from a “fatal lack of talent.” In a subsequent article in the Irish Times, O’Rourke clarified that he did not intend for his remark to insult mystery writers in particular but, instead, to denigrate the entire literary culture in America.  After reading both articles, it’s clear that O’Rourke believes our nation subsists on the literary equivalent of McDonald’s, formulaic, processed writing intended to keep readers turning pages thanks to contrived cliff hangers. Other cultures, he argues, consume the good stuff–books that make folks stop and think.  I don’t believe O’Rourke is entirely wrong in his assessment of the average American’s fiction diet. Our busy culture values easily digested entertainment. And, in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with that. I like having a cheeseburger now and again. Sometimes, I want something fun to read on a plane, or at the beach, or to listen to in the car. However, I certainly disagree that mystery writing as a whole is formulaic fast food. Good writing–and there is plenty of it in the mystery realm–transcends genre and turns formulas upside down. A recent example (which guessing from Mr. O’Rourke’s criticism he’d probably dislike) is Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. It’s a fantasy. It’s a mystery. It’s a family drama. Above all, it’s a story that forces readers to contemplate grief. What does losing a child do to a family? How do gender expectations limit an individual’s ability to properly mourn? Do people really survive the murder of a loved one with their former self intact or is violent loss so transformative that there is forever a person before and a person after?   Last night, I saw GET OUT, a movie by comedian, writer and actor Jordan Peele which manages to be a fantastic commentary on race and related micro-aggressions wrapped in a horror film. It certainly made me think about how the construct of race divides Americans, even when people are trying for it not to. At one point, for example, a character tries to prove he is not racist by saying how many times he voted for former President Obama, as though supporting a black political candidate was proof of post-racial colorblindness. Of course, the character brought up his vote precisely because he was seeing the color of the person he was talking to and assuming his support would create a bond.  Personally, I think the best writing is not the sort that purports to be literary from the get go. Sure, authors may applaud themselves for writing a “difficult book” filled with words intended to elevate the Flesch-Kincaid reading level. But those writers certainly don’t win many fans among readers.  The best authors aim to tell an engaging story that also makes their audience contemplate some larger issue. There are plenty of mystery books that do this. Emma Cline’s The Girls, Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl are examples. Each made me consider the nature of crime and punishment as much as I did when reading Dostoyevsky’s novel named for the very subject. These books, each in their own way, made me ponder what constitutes real justice. Can living with the knowledge of an immoral act and evading legal retribution prove worse than serving time?  Perhaps more importantly, these stories stayed with me long after I finished reading them, and I suspect they did for most readers. They were popular and they were smart. As I tell my daughters all the time, it’s quite possible to be both. 

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In Praise of Difficult Women

I like difficult women. Females unafraid to say exactly what they are thinking. Girls willing to bend the rules to do their version of the right thing. Strivers. Overachievers.People who will go to battle for what they want and who they love.  I like sensitive women. People who get insecure and jealous and angry and sad–the host of negative emotions that we all feel at some point and, too often, are encouraged to compact into our guts and cover with a smile.  Above all, I like complicated women. The kind of people who can be forthright, giving and kind in certain situations, but have days when stress makes them dismissive, selfish and dishonest–maybe even with themselves. I like women with chips on their shoulders and things to overcome. Vengeful and forgiving. Kind and selfish. Open-hearted and cagey.  These are the women that I write. And, they’re not always likable.  There is much debate over what makes a heroine in thrillers. Should the good girl be someone with whom the largely female book reading audience can root for the whole way through? Should she be a paragon of morality that has to fight through a dire situation? Or, should she be an amalgamation of positive and negative qualities? The kind of person complicit in her own misfortunes?  The recent success of books like Girl On A Train and Gone Girl have shown that readers will relate to fundamentally flawed female leads. Rachel Watson, the protagonist in Girl On A Train, is a raging alcoholic who drinks to the point of blacking out on a regular basis. She throws up on the stairs in a house she shares with a generous friend and is too drunk the next morning to clean it up. If that isn’t the roommate from hell, I don’t know what is. While author Paula Hawkins gave us some reasons to excuse Rachel’s behavior, it’s not until the end of the book that we have a full picture which, I think, would make even the hardest hearted readers forgive the main character. Until then, though, Rachel is a hot mess that few people would bother to befriend in real life.  For those who haven’t read Gone Girl, I won’t explain anything about Amy. But I think Gillian Flynn created a truly amazing character who isn’t particularly likable in either stage of the book (pre-reveal or post).  Plenty of people disagree with me. They want their heroines to be people morally worthy of their emotional attachment. If they’re rooting for them to win it’s because they are unequivocally deserve to.  What do you think?   

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