University of Rhode Island student tackles sexuality, drug use, mental health issues in first novel

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Junior Elizabeth Miceli’s novel Barren set for release Oct. 6

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 30, 2015 — Sexual assault, mental health issues, eating disorders, drug use and promiscuity are difficult topics for teenagers to talk about, much less write about. Yet, University of Rhode Island junior Elizabeth Miceli, of North Kingstown, R.I., made the bold decision to tackle all of these topics when she crafted her first novel, Barren, which is set for release Oct. 6.

Published by Swoon Romance, a digital-first, mostly contemporary imprint from Georgia McBride Media Group that publishes young adult, new adult, adult romance, and erotica, the e-book will be available on Amazon, Google Play and other online book retailers.

“I won’t be in class on Oct. 6. There’s going to be a lot of apprehension,” Miceli said. “People might connect to this character and it could get 4-star reviews, or they might say it’s terrible and I’m going to be miserable. I don’t know if it’s going to go well, but I think my sensitivity is why this book happened, so I’m prepared for the good or the bad.”

Indeed, Miceli’s sensitivity helped her cultivate her source material as she listened to her high school friends and talked with them about their experiences, fears and issues. In the course of her work on a human sexuality class project, Miceli interviewed friends and classmates, discussing issues they often struggled to talk about with adults.

“My friends called me ‘Mom,’ because I was the one who would always listen at 4 a.m. if they had a problem,” Miceli said.

That experience helped Miceli inject authenticity into the character of Stacey Lorenzo, a 17-year-old with poor self-esteem and an eating disorder. Stacey turns to partying – binge drinking, drugs, cutting and engaging in risky sexual activity – in an attempt to find herself. However, the downward spiral it causes threatens to bury Stacey in a hole so dark, even love won’t be able to pull her out.

“I began writing this as a high school senior, so I was living it,” Miceli said, who is now 20. “Nothing that intense ever happened to me, but after leaving high school it was very clear to me that there were generational issues that affected a large number of teenage girls, and I wanted to explore them in Barren.”

Swoon has already optioned a sequel, and Miceli has submitted her manuscript for Consumed to the publisher. She has also completed a draft of her third novel, which is unrelated to the Barren series, and is working on her fourth and fifth novels.

As difficult as the experiences are to talk and write about, Miceli said she struggled to present her writing to her parents, Mariann and Jim Miceli. Jim Miceli is the quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator for the URI football team, and Mariann is a real estate agent.

Miceli asked if she could read the book to her mother, so she could filter out the more explicit material, but Mariann Miceli insisted on reading it for herself. She made it to Chapter 8. Her father hasn’t read the story.

“My mother wouldn’t even look at me!” Miceli said, laughing. “I asked her if we could finish it together, so that’s how she heard the rest of the story.”

Miceli, who is majoring in human development and family studies with a minor in psychology, has long intended to pursue a career as a sex therapist. While she always enjoyed creative writing, she didn’t view it as a viable career path. She considered pursuing a journalism degree to put her writing skills to good use, but ultimately decided she wanted to help people.

That could all change, depending on the success of Barren.

“Stacey was a senior in high school in Barren, so in Consumed, she’s in college and it’s about seeing how the character continues to progress,” Miceli said.

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Miceli