Gone Girl: My Friday with Gillian Flynn
I knew I was going to see Gillian Flynn even before I left Manila.
I usually fly to New York armed with a wish list of things to do (and eat!) and Gillian’s Barnes & Noble event was in the Will Cry If I Miss It category.
I knew there would be a discussion but I wasn’t sure if there would be a book signing. I have been to author events that did not allow it (see: Portia de Rossi at the Apple Store in Soho) or only allowed a select few who bought VIP tickets (see: Chuck Palahniuk at Cooper Union for Strand Books). I still planned to go either way – I wanted to hear Gillian talk about her work.
Gone Girl was the first Gillian Flynn novel that I read and like many others, it gripped me and enraged me. I devoured Sharp Objects immediately after. It was dark and disturbing, shocking and repulsive. Dark Places gave me the gift of Libby Day – a flawed heroine who has gone through hell and is forced to revisit it. Like the other books, Dark Places was twisted and horrific and I loved it.
I love Gillian Flynn and her ability to take me on an intense ride, make me care about characters who also creep me out and bring me to a world so grim that I feel like I’m drowning in darkness. Finishing her books always feels like breaking through the surface of the ocean and taking big gulps of air.
The day before the event, I called Barnes & Noble’s Union Square branch and they told me that yes, she will be signing books.
The next day, even though the event wasn’t until 7 pm, I arrived at the bookstore at 5:30.
Since my copies of Gillian’s books are all in Manila, I headed straight to the cash register to purchase Gone Girl. “Will she sign more than one copy?” I asked the girl behind the counter.
“Sure,” was the reply. “Some people go up to five or six.”
“Okay, three books please.” I knew I had to get copies signed for Tatin and Giff too because we’ve become a support group of sorts after freaking out over Gone Girl’s infuriating ending.
When I went up to the fourth floor, I discovered that even though I was an hour and a half early, I wasn’t the first person there. Other Flynn fans had already grabbed seats.
“You may sit anywhere except the first two rows,” I was told. There were still seats in the third and fourth row but I decided to take a center aisle seat in the fifth row, to make sure I had a good view and so I could take pictures. This turned out to be a very good choice (you’ll find out why in a bit).
I had over an hour to kill so I whipped out BJ Novak’s One More Thing, a book that I’ve been enjoying tremendously.
The place started to fill up. A person who had grabbed a center aisle seat on the fourth row left, leaving the seat empty. I considered moving to that spot but just seconds later, it was occupied by a really tall man with curly blonde hair.
Not switching seats turned out to be a good decision too – again, you’ll see why in a bit.
Beside me was a little old lady, her hair was pure white and her cardigan bright teal. She had a hardcover copy of Gone Girl with her. Her phone rang and she answered. “Hello? I almost didn’t hear you, there’s a lot of people here. Can you hear the noise here? Did you find the place okay? Okay. So later, when I’m done, I will call you and I will meet you by the car, okay? Or you can call me. And if you call me and I don’t pick up, I probably didn’t hear it so just call again. Okay? Okay. I will call you. Or you call me. And we can meet at the car. Okay? Okay. We will connect later, okay.”
Round and round they went. I thought she was adorable.
Suddenly, a guy wielding a Sharpie and a thick pad of Post-It appeared in front of us. “Personalizations, anyone?”
People started spelling out their names for him so he could write them on Post-Its and they could stick it onto their books.
I quickly typed our names in my iPhone and just showed them to him. It was easier that way – and I was sure Gillian wouldn’t be signing one of the books “To Gift.”
Another girl appeared to help hand out Post-Its and I noticed her shirt and thought, “Fuck, I want that shirt.”
“#TeamNick,” it read. Yes, Nick as in Nick Dunne, one of the characters in Gone Girl.
I wondered if they were selling it in the bookstore. Probably not, I thought, telling myself I should at least take a picture of it.
The crowd stirred and I heard someone say, “She’s here!” We all craned our necks and saw a visibly pregnant Gillian, posing for pictures in a pretty dress.
Soon, she was onstage with author Laura Lippmann, the other participant in the discussion.
Laura asked Gillian questions about writing and Gone Girl and they both talked about their careers as former journalists turned fiction writers. It was fascinating. Gillian’s voice was surprisingly deep and I was thrilled to see that she was funny and self-deprecating. She talked about writing the screenplay for Gone Girl, how she was fired from her Entertainment Weekly job, the bedtime stories she tells her son (he thinks Snow White is a superhero) and the inspiration behind Gone Girl – “being a newlywed.” That really made the audience laugh.
The discussion was over in a little over 20 minutes, there was a quick Q&A and then it was time for the book signing.
It was very organized. We were asked to remain in our seats while Barnes & Noble employees called us row by row to line up by the side of the stage.
As we were waiting for our turn, the old lady beside me turned to me, “Have you read her book?”
“Yes, I loved it. Have you read all her books?”
“No. Have you?”
“You must really like her.”
We smiled at each other.
They asked the people in the fourth row to line up. It was going to be our turn next. “So nervous lol sweating,” I texted Jill.
The girl organizing the rows was wearing a #TeamAmy shirt. I was going to ask her if I could take a picture of her shirt when a guy on the second row called her. He was from Gillian’s publishing company. They talked for a bit and then he opened his leather messenger bag and handed her a bunch of shirts.
More #TeamAmy and #TeamNick shirts! Holy crap.
“Can I have one?” a girl a few seats from me asked.
“I’ll buy one!” I said, before I could stop myself.
The girl hesitated. “Umm, there’s only a few of them.” Then she handed the girl a shirt and she handed me a shirt.
“Thank you so much!” I said. That’s when I realized I had chosen the perfect spot. I was in the center aisle so talking to the shirt girl was easy. And if I had moved to the fourth row, I wouldn’t have been there when she gave out the shirts – I would already be standing by the stage.
I got a #TeamAmy shirt which is funny because I hate hate hate Amy. But I was still happy I got a shirt. I’m not sure what she did with the rest of the shirts. I was too excited to notice.
Soon, we were asked to join the line. I took note of the process – the girl wearing the #TeamNick shirt would get the books and line them up for Gillian to sign while the guy with the Post-Its took photos of Gillian with her fans using their phones or cameras. I made a mental checklist of things I planned to do when I reached the stage. Hand girl books, ask girl if Gillian will sign my shirt too, take pic of girl’s #TeamNick shirt, hand phone to guy, talk to Gillian.
There were a lot of things I wanted to say to Gillian. I wanted to tell her how much I enjoyed her books, that she should go to the Philippines because she has so many fans there. I wanted to ask her if Gone Girl’s Entertainment Weekly cover felt like sweet vengeance, I wanted to ask her if her husband wasn’t freaked out by her books.
I went through the checklist again. Books, shirt, picture of shirt, phone, talk. Books, shirt, picture of shirt, phone, talk.
There were just two people in front of me. Then, the little old lady touched my shoulder. Apparently, her car wasn’t coming for her. “Do you know what street that is?” she said, looking out the window.
“East 17th,” I told her.
“I need to get on the subway,” she said.
“Oh that’s easy, you just walk to the park, it’s a three-minute walk,” I told her, motioning towards Union Square Park.
“Thank you,” she said.
But I wanted to make sure she’d reach her destination. “Where do you need to go?” I asked her, opening Google Maps on my phone. She gave me the address and I gave her directions.
“That’s handy, having a map on your phone,” she said, before patting me on the shoulder. “Thank you.”
Before I could go through my checklist again, I was onstage. I handed the books to the girl, asked if Gillian would sign my shirt (“Sure!”), asked her if I could take her picture (“Okay!”) and I handed my phone to Post-It guy.
Suddenly, I was face to face with Gillian. And I didn’t know what to say.
“I’m so excited!” I told her, as she signed Tatin’s book with a silver Sharpie. And I was excited. All the blood had rushed to my face, making me feel like my cheeks were on fire.
“I’m excited to be here too,” she said.
“I’m bringing these books home to the Philippines.”
She looked up and smiled. I kept yammering. “Please do a signing in the Philippines, you have so many fans there.”
“Really? That’s great. That’s good to know,” she said, warmly.
I cannot pretend that I had an intelligent conversation with Gillian because I really didn’t. I spent a lot of seconds just gaping at her while she signed the books. All those things I wanted to talk to her about completely disappeared.
At one point, one of her publishing people came up to her to ask if she needed anything and she was incredibly nice, telling them to go and leave her because the line was still long and there was no reason to for them to stay. “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m gonna grab a bite later,” Gillian said.
Then, it was time for her to sign my shirt, my #TeamAmy shirt.
“Um, I’m actually #TeamNick but that’s okay,” I said. And Gillian laughed this great big laugh, making me love her even more.
She signed my shirt and posed for a photo with me and my shirt. I said, “I’m so happy to meet you” one last time before leaving the stage.
I was so disoriented I ended up wandering around Barnes’ fourth floor before buying a bottle of water and finally exiting the building. My face was still super hot.
Most of my photos were in my other iPhone so while walking, I proceeded to Airdrop them to my main iPhone. I was so focused on the task that I almost crossed the street without looking.
I stopped myself just in time, taking a step back onto the curb. I can already see the headline, “Woman dies a gory death after meeting gore author.” Being run over just after exiting Barnes – wouldn’t that be funny?
Not really. But Gillian can write the shit out of that scene.