Gillian Flynn is a former writer for Entertainment Weekly who wrote two popular novels prior to Gone Girl — Sharp Objects and Dark Places. Gone Girl is her best-selling book to date. Her other two books were about people incapable of making commitments, but in this novel she tried to depict the ultimate commitment, marriage: "I liked the idea of marriage told as a he-said, she-said story, and told by two narrators who were perhaps not to be trusted." Flynn has also described marriage as "the ultimate mystery."
Flynn admits to putting some of herself in the character of Nick Dunne. Like Dunne, she was a popular culture writer. Also like Dunne, she was laid off after many years at the same job. Flynn said, "I certainly wove that experience, that sense of having something that you were going to do for the rest of your life and seeing that possibility taken away... I definitely wove that sense of unrest and nervousness into Nick's character."
Asked how she can write so believably about a man's inner life, Flynn says, "I'm kind of part guy myself." When she needs to understand something about how men think, she asks her husband or a male friend. Flynn's autobiographical essay "I Was Not a Nice Little Girl..." invites readers to believe she took inspiration for Amy Dunne from her own interior monologue. In that essay, Flynn confesses to sadistic childhood impulses like "stunning ants and feeding them to spiders." A favorite indoor game called "Mean Aunt Rosie" allowed Flynn to cast herself as a "witchy caregiver" who exercised malevolent influence over her cousins. The same essay argues that women fail to acknowledge their own violent impulses and incorporate them into their personal narratives, though men tend to cherish stories of their childhood meanness.
Flynn identified Zoë Heller's Notes on a Scandal and Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as influences on her writing and, in particular, on the plot and themes of Gone Girl. Flynn said she admired the "ominous" ending of Notes on a Scandal and the pathology of a bad marriage from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. For the conclusion of Gone Girl, Flynn drew from Rosemary's Baby: "I love that it just ends with, you know, 'Hey, the devil's in the world, and guess what? Mom kind of likes him!'" she said.
Flynn also says she is influenced by the mystery writers Laura Lippman, Karin Slaughter, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Harlan Coben. However, she tries not to read any one genre exclusively, and she also admires Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, T.C. Boyle, and Arthur Phillips, who are better known as realistic contemporary writers.
Gone Girl is also the title of a Lew Archer story, in the 1955 collection The Name is Archer, by Ross Macdonald, who Flynn has also cited as a favourite author.