Thursday, November 12, 2020

Jessica Gross

Jessica Gross is a novelist and essayist.

Her nonfiction has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The Paris Review Daily, among other places. She holds an MFA in fiction from The New School, a Master's degree in cultural reporting and criticism from New York University and a Bachelor's in anthropology from Princeton University. She also has a dog, whose name is Benji.

Gross received fellowships in fiction from the Yiddish Book Center (2017) and the 14th Street Y (2015-16), where she also served as editor of the LABA Journal. She teaches fiction and nonfiction writing at Eugene Lang College at The New School. (If you're interested in private writing coaching, get in touch.)

Gross's debut novel is Hysteria.

My Q&A with the author:
What's in a name?

I kept the narrator of Hysteria nameless. The novel is told in what I hope is a very immersive first person; I wanted to embed the reader as deeply as possible in the narrator's psyche. I never think of myself in the third person, so it made most sense to me to lean into "I" and "me" rather than to ever have her think of herself by her name, which would suggest she has some perspective. (Hint: she doesn't! She's very myopic.)

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Very. Hysteria features a highly sexual protagonist who becomes convinced that her bartender is Sigmund Freud. My teenage self fantasized about sex but was terrified of it, and knew nothing about psychoanalysis.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Both are incredibly difficult to write! Endings are probably harder and scarier -- I put them off as long as possible -- but I change beginnings more. I have a habit of obsessively revising the first chapter of a book before I allow myself to move on...even though I know that by the time I finally reach the end of the draft, I may very well abandon the original opening altogether.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Though the life history of Hysteria's narrator is very different from mine -- I did not grow up in Manhattan, my parents aren't therapists, I'm not an only child, and I've certainly never become convinced my bartender is Sigmund Freud -- her emotional life and thought patterns are very familiar to me.
Visit Jessica Gross's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hysteria.

--Marshal Zeringue