My face was damp. It was a bright morning in Chicago, too bright, and my breakfast of coffee with a side of gnawing anxiety was percolating inside my stomach, sour and potent. The wind pushed hard against my nose, my eyes, my coat, but I was hot, sweaty, shaky. October had a bite, but winter hadn’t arrived just yet. My body was uncomfortable, confused. My mind was much the same. Chewing on my pen instead of my nails, I stopped thinking of sleep with, and turned my mind to Gillian.
Gillian Flynn. Impossibly sleek hair and a voice like a campfire burning low. The kind of clothes that make you question whether or not you’ve ever had taste, at all. Composure, cleverness, sharp eyes and perfect ease. And to top it all, that mind, a mind that crafts characters—women especially—with recognizable flaws, not the sort dreamed up by lazy writers intent on hewing to the archetypes they honestly believe to be simple and true, but the kind that exist in actual human beings. Ego. Self-destruction. A tendency to be cruel when afraid, or a knack for exploiting the kindness of others. She’d written such women in novels like Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, novels that play with genre so that, like cheese around a pill, the familiar trappings might tempt those reticent to gobble down a character study. The pill is vital, but the cheese is also delicious.
The world will get both when Widows, Flynn’s taut, thrilling crime drama co-written with and directed by Steve McQueen, opens on November 16. As I approached the table at which she sat, calmly requesting a cup of coffee and gazing frankly around the restaurant, I thought of Widows. I thought of star Viola Davis, who at a screening of the film the previous night had spoken with unhidden pleasure of playing a woman who was more than A Wife, more than A Mother, more than A Bitch or A Love Interest. I thought of Davis and co-stars Elizabeth Debicki, Michelle Rodriguez, and Cynthia Erivo stepping into the crime genre and taking on the sort of roles usually reserved for men with a particular set of skills. I thought of its dialogue, sometimes acidic, sometimes with teeth, never rote or familiar. I thought how new it seemed, and how honest, and how it made me giddy and filled me with dread all at once. And I thought of how Flynn’s knack for a twist. Would she see mine? Would she know what was coming?
A mind like a diamond, an eye used to observing. I fumbled in my bag, fingers expressing the nerves my face concealed, and grabbed my recorder. As I turned it on and flipped open my notebook, I had no idea if what I’d say would surprise her. How do you surprise a woman with a mind like that? You can do nothing but try.
I took a deep breath, and asked my question.
The Takeout: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Gillian Flynn: (a laugh) I would not consider a hot dog a sandwich. I consider it its own thing, on its own, precise, hot dog stage.
TO: So the fact that it’s sort of between two pieces of bread, that doesn’t give you pause?
GF: Absolutely not. It’s in its own category. It’s its own thing.
It was 10 a.m. At 12:30 p.m., she disappeared.
Gillian Flynn, the author and screenwriter behind Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects, and other works, has not actually disappeared. She’s totally fine! Her movie, Widows, opens on November 16.