Hudson Author Jill Dearman writes a new novella,
The Uncanny Case of Gilles/Jeannette,
set in the City of Hudson during the Depression.
TRIXIE: What inspired you to write The Uncanny Case of Gilles/Jeannette, your new novella?
JD: I’ve long been obsessed with the theme of “the double,” but the idea and the entire plot came to me like a download from the universe – while living in Brooklyn, in early March 2020. This was less than two weeks before New York City went on lockdown. I already had plans to move to Hudson in the upcoming summer, but it was almost as if my psyche had to get this out before the world turned upside down. The novella is a modern gothic; it follows the classic trope in which a so-called civilized city person moves up to the country, and must face an untamed beast –outside themselves, and within.
TRIXIE: I’ve read two books written by you, and both involve main female characters who are unapologetically killers. Is this your genre?
JD: My books are described as “social-engaged crime fiction.” To me that means that I look at the bigger picture of what creates a criminal; what is society’s role? In 2019 I wrote a book on the History of Feminism for teenagers. It’s all connected.
TRIXIE: Why set your novella, The Uncanny Case of Gilles/Jeannette in Hudson? During the Great Depression?
JD: When I discovered the fascinating tales of vice and gambling of Hudson in that era, I knew that would be the perfect time and place. Quakers and Prostitutes. Jekyll and Hyde.
TRIXIE: The Jekyll and Hyde theme has a twist. Is the book written with the current issue of trans persons’ rights in mind?
JD: Absolutely. Since writing the book, my own child has come out as Genderfluid. Phoenix is a really talented artist and did the cover for the novella, in fact! So, the framing story takes place in present day, as a lesbian couple is going through a complicated time in their relationship. Simone is transitioning to Simon, and Ella, whose point of view we follow, supports Simon, but also feels conflicted on a sexual level. I wanted to explore the complexity of transition and create characters that are human, not just labels. We read about horrible laws being passed against trans people, and all LGBTQ people every day, and it was important to me to show that relationships of all sorts are complex. During the AIDS epidemic, I worked as a counselor on the New York City Department of Health’s AIDS Hotline. Calls were anonymous and I can’t tell you how many calls I received from internally tortured mainstream men who were involved with other men, and many with trans men, who kept their secrets from their families, friends, colleagues, everyone. I believe if we all could feel free with their own gender, sexuality, gender presentation, etc. and be supported in the outside world, there wouldn’t be this hate campaign against queers.