Alumna’s novel, featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, follows a 16-year-old who fakes her way through gay conversion therapy and discovers a sense of self

Three-time VCU graduate Michele Young-Stone’s latest novel, “Lost in the Beehive” follows a young woman growing up in the 1960s as she navigates her sexuality.

Michele Young-Stone (B.A.’92/H&S; M.T.’95/E; M.F.A.’05/A)  could not have known it at the time, but the inspiration for her third novel came from a beach trip she took more than 30 years ago.

“I was 16. My best friend and I went on vacation to the Outer Banks and we met these boys from Minnesota who were graduating high school,” Young-Stone said. “And one of the boys confessed to us that he was gay and that none of his friends knew the truth. He didn’t feel like he could tell them because he thought they wouldn’t be his friend, or that they would be afraid of him.”

More than 20 years later, as Young-Stone attempted to write a love story about two young women, she found a character repeatedly showing up in her notes. That character became Sheffield Schoeffler, a young man who is gay and who is both friend and field guide for protagonist Gloria Ricci as she navigates her own sexuality and sense of self in “Lost in the Beehive” (Simon & Schuster 2018), Young-Stone’s novel about a young woman growing up in the 1960s who fakes her way through gay conversion therapy and charts a path to becoming her own person.

“I didn’t realize [the boy on the beach] was so much inspiration for the novel until I finished writing — it wasn’t until the book was getting ready to print that I understood where Sheffield Schoeffler came from,” Young-Stone said. “This happens in every one of my books — some character will show up and kind of shift the whole focus.”

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