Given everything 2020 has thrown at us so far, who among us wouldn’t like to escape — if not from the year itself, at least from the monotony of staying home? A getaway is, sadly, rather difficult to arrange right now. But crack open “The Bluebell Girls,” the third novel by Scarsdale resident Barbara Josselsohn, and you’ll soon find yourself in a charming fictional town nestled in the Adirondack Mountains. It’s a great place to get lost — and, as Josselsohn’s memorable characters discover, to find themselves as well.
“Bluebell Girls’”main character is Jenna, a Manhattanite who returns to her hometown of Lake Summers following a divorce. She’s not just there for her own benefit, though: her mother, Sweet, could use some care, and her daughter Sophie needs support as well. When Jenna meets Sweet’s neighbor, Troy — and remembers the kiss they shared long ago — it leaves the door open for romance and revisiting longstanding secrets.
Just as compelling as the novel’s plot, though, is the story of Josselsohn herself. In a mere five years, she has evolved from a wishful novelist into an author with three published books under her belt. And the future looks bright as well: two more of her works will be on the way in 2021.
“It really doesn’t seem like it happened suddenly at all,” laughed Josselsohn, reflecting on her success. “I mean I always wanted to be a novelist. That was what I had inside of me from the time I was young, like a lot of writers, and I really wanted to do that. I think when I was in college and graduate school, I was for a long time a novelist in search of a story.”
After earning her master’s degree in English, Josselsohn moved into corporate communications, and then into business publishing. She would eventually transition to freelance writing. “And then, when my kids were really young, I kind of found my sweet spot in terms of what I wanted to write about as a novelist,” she said. “It’s really about family relationships, navigating the adult world, finding love, and fulfilling everything inside of you, despite the complexities of relationships, and sometimes a world that can be very cruel and difficult.”
It was with those themes in mind that Josselsohn’s first book idea came to her: the tale of a woman who has given up her career to raise children, and her struggle to reclaim her identity. “I wrote that story literally over 15 years, as I was raising my kids and doing freelance work,” Josselsohn said.
She also found a literary agent who was on her wavelength: Cynthia Manson of Westchester-based Manson Literary Agency. (The two connected when Josselsohn took a class Manson taught at Sarah Lawrence Institute; Josselsohn now teaches there herself.) Together, they edited the manuscript, and Manson found it a home with Lake Union publishing. “The Last Dreamer,”Josselsohn’s debut novel, hit bookshelves in 2015.
While the book was well received, Josselsohn’s relationship with Lake Union soon ended. “My publisher was starting to move in a different direction, more toward suspense and thrillers,” she said. “So I went back to the drawing board and wrote [my second novel] ‘The Lilac House.’”
This second book — the first to be set in Lake Summers — took three to four years to complete, after which Manson diligently shopped the manuscript. “One of the important, great things about having an agent is that I didn’t have to do any work,” Josselsohn said. “Her job is to sell the books and we have a great meeting of the minds.”
As luck had it, an imprint of Hachette U.K. called Bookouture was looking for just the sort of novel Josselsohn had written. In fact, “When they signed, they actually had said, ‘Do you have a second book? Because we like to do two-book deals,’” she remembered. “Their concept is to develop series, books that are tied together in some way.”
Fortunately for all involved, Josselsohn did already have something in mind. “By that time I’d spent enough time with myself and my thoughts and my passions to know that I did have a bunch of ideas in my head for what I wanted to do next. So ‘The Bluebell Girls’was kind of a very, very small germ of an idea,” she said.
Josselsohn once again got busy writing. “The Lilac House” was published in March; “Bluebell Girls” hit bookshelves Sept. 25. (To purchase, visit Scarsdale’s own Bronx River Books or another bookstore, or visit amazon.com for the Kindle edition.) At the midpoint between these two milestones, Josselsohn signed a second contract to write two more Lake Summers books, slated to be published next year.
Admittedly, the pandemic has made it a challenge to promote books. Still, Josselsohn’s been busy getting the word out on “Bluebell Girls.” On Oct. 1 she was set to take part in a virtual author talk hosted by the Scarsdale Library, and she’s currently planning another event mid-month in which she’ll team up with another local author for a presentation. For further details, follow Barbara_Josselsohn_author on Instagram, or follow her on Facebook. It’s a great way to keep up with her latest work — and the fascinating turns her writing career will doubtless take in the future.