Gillian Flynn Reveals How Sharp Objects Came to Life

By Ariana Bacle

The writer shares how she penned her debut novel between reporting on movie sets around the world.


Gillian Flynn was working at Entertainment Weekly when she decided she was going to write a book. She spent off-hours plugging away at a story that would ultimately become Sharp Objects — her debut novel now premiering as a limited series starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson and newcomer Eliza Scanlen.

“I loved books, and I had always wanted to see if I could write one,” Flynn recalls. “I started writing it just nights, weekends and holidays. I was covering movies for Entertainment Weekly, so I wrote it on movie sets all over the world, in places very glamorous like New Zealand for Lord of the Rings, and then unglamorous places, like somewhere in Florida for Jackass: The Movie.”

The story follows a reporter named Camille (Amy Adams) who returns to her hometown to investigate the death of one local girl and the disappearance of another. Although Flynn wrote the novel in a number of places, she chose to set Sharp Objects in her home state of Missouri.

“It was largely imaginary,” Flynn specifies. “It’s not based on any particular town. But I knew I wanted [Wind Gap] to be a town of violence that Camille grew up in.”

Following the release of her novel in 2006, Flynn continued using her dark imagination to craft fiction. Her next book, Dark Places, came out in 2009 and became a 2015 film starring Charlize Theron; her third and most recent novel, Gone Girl, debuted in 2012, and Flynn adapted it for the big screen two years later. But bringing Sharp Objects, her first book, to life was a different kind of adventure.

“Writing this book was a very, very personal experience,” Flynn shares. “Then to have the reverse of that — where I set it open for everyone to look through and figure out how to turn it into a TV series — was a very interesting and really rewarding experience.”

It helped that she collaborated with fans of her work. Executive producer Marti Noxon, who shares a series writing credit with Flynn, says, “I love Gillian Flynn. I read all of her books, and after I read Gone Girl, I was like, ‘Who is this woman?’” She continues, “After I put down Sharp Objects, I couldn’t shake Camille. Pretty soon after, I called to find out where the rights were, because I thought, ‘This is something.’ And look where we are now.”

The writers are part of an all-star team that also includes Get Out producer Jason Blum, Big Little Lies director Jean-Marc Vallée, and Amy Adams, who, in addition to playing Camille, is executive producing the series.

“I feel like Sharp Objects was waiting for Amy to come along,” Flynn says. “She’s so easy to empathize with and has this tenderness to her. But you don’t feel like she’ll be completely crushed because she’s got this great spine to her. She is exactly the right person to bear the very heavy load that is being Camille.”

Adams adds that Camille “has so much pain and nowhere to put it,” qualities that drew her to the role. “It was a character that I think a lot of women can identity with,” she observes. “I love the female characters that [Flynn] creates. They feel so real and full, so unexpected and surprising.”

Fans and critics alike are already applauding Adams’ performance and the eerie world of Sharp Objects. “With a cast led by Adams operating at the peak of her abilities, Sharp Objects is dazzlingly itself, a show in thrall to the horror of its premise but one that finds nuance within unremitting darkness,” Variety wrote in their review of the premiere episode.

Flynn’s impressed, too: “They took such good care of my baby.”

Can’t wait until the
Sharp Objects premiere on July 7? Find more HBO adaptations, interviews, videos and more with Reading Is Lit.