Friday, February 12, 2016

Gillian Flynn’s short story first appeared as “What Do You Do?” Republished as “The Grownup”. Now it’s headed to the screen.


If you’re Gillian Flynn you can be pretty confident someone will want to turn your next book into a film. But hey, why spend months and months writing a novel when really, all you’ve got to do is whip out a short story and see where it lands? If you’re Gillian Flynn you get your agent on the phone and before you know it the boys at Universal, Fox, Paramount and TriStar have all read it —because it’s a short story—and the game is afoot. You haven’t just written a short story, you’ve fomented a bidding war, because you are a hot property, and everything you do makes people stop and say hmmmmm.
Deadline says the bids ‘are hitting the table today’ and the story will be adapted by Natalie Krinsky, the writer of Gossip Girl and Grey’s Anatomy.
I find all the roar a bit odd. Because Flynn didn’t just write the story, it’s not fresh from the desk of. The story first appeared as What Do You Do? in George R.R. Martin’s Rogues anthology in June 2014. Then Penguin published it as a standalone under The Grownup title last October. It’s not as though the material just popped up on everybody’s devices this week. Here’s how Penguin sum up the story, which they call Flynn’s homage to the ghost story:
A canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the “psychic” visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan’s terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan’s teenage stepson, doesn’t help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it. 

Here’s an extract
I spotted Susan’s house immediately. Some­how I knew. I actually stopped and stared. Then I shivered.
It was different from the rest.
It lurked. It was the only remaining Victorian house in a long row of boxy new construction. The house looked beautiful and grim: Elaborate mold­ing and dark gray, ruffled stonework. A steep roof overhanging the front like a frown.
I watched the house. It watched me back through long baleful windows so tall a child could stand in the sill. And one was. I could see the length of his thin body: gray trousers, black sweater, a maroon tie perfectly knotted at the neck. A thicket of dark hair covering his eyes. Then a sudden blur and he’d hopped down and disappeared behind the heavy brocade drapes.
The steps to the mansion were steep and long. My heart was thumping by the time I reached the top and rang the bell. As I waited I read the in­scription carved in the stone near my feet.
Carterhook Manor
Established 1893
Patrick Carterhook
The carving was in an elaborate Victorian cursive, the two round o’s dissected by a feathery curlicue. It made me want to protect my belly.
Susan opened the door. Her eyes were red.
“Welcome to Carterhook Manor,” she said, fake grandeur. She caught me staring—Susan never looked good when I saw her, but today she hadn’t even pretended to brush her hair and a foul, acrid odor came off her. (Not despair or depression, just bad breath and body odor.) She shrugged limply. “I’ve finally stopped sleeping.”*
Seriously, the truth is short stories are incredibly difficult to write. A short story has to be tight, with no extraneous detail. Every word counts. No one just whips out a short story. 
To be honest, I cant wait to see how much this one adds up to in the $ per word context. Any way you look at it, like your favorite little black dress, the story is proving to be very good value for Ms. Flynn.
* Reprinted from THE GROWNUP. Copyright © 2015 by Gillian Flynn.  Published by Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC

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