Local Authors, Local Books: Croton Author Lives the Dream with Debut Novel

Jeannie Zusy’s book launch tour included a hometown stop at Croton’s By-the-Dam Books, where she talked shop with owner Andy DeRado.

Jeannie Zusy, a Croton-on-Hudson resident for 24 years, has written full-length plays, screenplays, short stories, and works of fiction. In September, she expanded that portfolio with the publication of her debut novel, The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream 

It is described by her publisher Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) as a “very funny, occasionally romantic, and surprisingly moving novel about how one woman’s life is turned upside down when she becomes caregiver to her sister with special needs.”

Said an Executive Editor at Atria Books, “This is one of the only books I’ve ever read in which a person with intellectual disabilities is one of the main characters.”   

Q+A with Author Jeannie Zusy

River Journal North (RJN) > How long did it take to write The Frederick Sisters?

Jeannie Zusy (JZ) > A lifetime, seven months, or three years, depending on how you measure it. It was inspired by my relationship with my brother Davie, who inspired me in many ways. I wrote about him in many forms before I got to this book. I wrote the first very messy draft in a whirlwind, right after he died. Then, I worked with my agent, then editor, and finally, copy editor. So, three years from my putting down those first words to getting to the published version. 

RJN > What is your writing process like?  

Atria Books 
320 pages 

JZ > I write almost every day. Sometimes it’s just squeezing in an hour, other times, for several hours into the night. Those are my writer’s cave days. Usually, I write from my dining room table, facing out to see the planted pots on my deck and the green, green scene behind.  

RJN > Any advice for those who may struggle with writers’ block?  

JZ > Give yourself an hour every day of totally free writing. Just let it flow. It doesn’t have to be good. In fact, let it be very bad! Later, you can go back and circle or highlight the things that you loved from those flows and then start again from there. 

RJN > How did you penetrate the rarefied world of major league book publishing? 

JZ > Yes, it is very hard to break in. I sent out so many queries, countless queries, not just this book, but of a previous one, and short stories and other things. I received many rejections. Some very beautiful rejections that kept me going. I kept telling myself to give up the whole writing pursuit, but I couldn’t. Early pandemic, I was losing all hope when I recalled that there was still one agent out there who had requested my full manuscript. I followed up, and after a recommended rewrite, she became my agent. Shortly after I signed with her, she sold The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream within a week. 

RJN > What attracted you to this region to raise a family, and what are some favorite hangouts?
JZ > We are surrounded by natural beauty, there is a rich and friendly artistic community, and we are just an hour north of the city. I love the local bookstores: By-the-Dam Books in Croton-on-Hudson, Hudson Valley Books for Humanity in Ossining, and Barnes and Noble in Mohegan Lake. In Croton, I love the Black Cow Coffee Company for coffee, The Tapsmith for wine or beer, Fratelli’s and Ocean House for a great dinner. And there are so many beautiful places to walk. Croton Point Park and Teatown Reservation are two of my favorites.   

  • jeanniezusy.com 
  • simonandschuster.com

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