Gillian Flynn, shown here at home in Chicago, shares the secret to her writing success. (Photo: Anne Ryan, USA TODAY)
Carol Memmott, USA TODAY
The staffers at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Miss., are such fans of Gillian Flynn's smash hit Gone Girl that when something goes awry at work, they joke that "Amazing Amy doesn't like that," referring to the book's pathological heroine.
Gone Girl, Flynn's third novel, was one of the hottest hits of the summer and shows no signs of cooling off this fall. For 17 weeks it's been lodged in the top 10 of USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list (it's currently No. 6). Sales have reached 1.5 million copes in hardcover and e-book formats.
The twisty-turny plot centers on the roller-coaster marriage of Nick and Amy Dunne, New Yorkers who return to Nick's Missouri hometown after he loses his magazine job. When Amy disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary, the police suspect Nick killed her. But things aren't so simple.
"My tagline on this book is that it will make your head spin off," says Lemuria's Maggie Stevenson, who recommends the novel to customers. "People are in all kinds of relationships, and this book is about a wild relationship. You wonder how well you really know the person you're in a relationship with, and a lot of people can relate to that."
Bookseller enthusiasm is just part of a confluence of events that have led to Gone Girl's phenomenal sales. It's popular with book clubs. It was an Indie Next pick of independent booksellers, an Amazon Best Books of the Month selection for June, and a "First Read" selection of NPR. Real Simple, Jezebel and Martha Stewart Living selected it for their online book clubs.
And there's more buzz: Reese Witherspoon will produce Gone Girl and is attached to star.
"We published it thinking it would be a big hit. We put everything we had into it, but we had no idea it would do this," says Crown publisher Molly Stern. "It is the kind of success that unless Oprah picks it or there's some obvious moment, it's a very hard and frankly fun thing to analyze."
Stern cites behind-the-scenes publishing efforts, the timing of the release, Flynn's popularity with the media and her past accomplishments - her first two novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, were critically acclaimed - "but do any one of those facts make a hit like this? No. Do all of them? Maybe," says Stern. "And there's something about it being in the air a bit. Everybody's talking about one book, and this turned out to be that book."
For Shannon Sherrill, 38, a public relations professional from Sioux City, it's all about the characters. "Like in real life, they start with a facade of who they want you to think they are, then slowly reveal their true selves. It's not pretty! But I love the idea that we put on different personas with different people. And of course, the mystery keeps you hooked from the first page."
Author Flynn finds Gone Girl 's huge success a pleasant surprise and offers up her own take on why it resonates.
"It has a lot of entry points for readers," she says. "What it feels like to be a guy right now, what it feels like to be a woman right now, what it feels like to lose your job in this economy, what it feels like to be in the Midwest and what it feels like to be in a long-term relationship. So I think there's a lot of things people like to compare notes on, and I think that's why it's been so embraced by book clubs. It has a lot of things to agree or disagree with."
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