Meredith Towbin, who earned her master’s degree in English from Xavier, has been a writer for her whole adult life—spending time as an English teacher, an editor and a freelancer. But she always wanted to call herself a novelist. Now she can.
Towbin’s debut novel, Straight Jacket, which will be available in print March 15, tells the story of 18-year-old Anna, who is committed to a psychiatric hospital after she threatens suicide to escape her abusive parents. There, she meets 19-year-old Caleb, a boy who thinks his mission is to help Anna break free from her parents.
Many of the characters in Towbin’s book suffer from various psychological illnesses. And although Towbin had no experience working with mentally disabled men and women prior to writing the novel, she wanted to accurately portray their illnesses. So she did what good writers do and poured hours upon hours of research into the project.
One of the novel’s main characters, Caleb, suffers from catatonia, which is a serious mental and physical disease that renders sufferers incapable of motor activity. Towbin interviewed professionals about the condition to get a sense of how Caleb would respond to different situations. “I remember talking to this one psychiatrist for more an hour,” says Towbin. “I asked him about the disease and described Caleb’s character. Before our conversation was over, he diagnosed Caleb’s exact form of catatonia.”
After five months of non-stop researching and writing, Towbin finished Straight Jacket and it was ready for publication. Now, Straight Jacket is digitally available through Amazon, and, according to her website, a second novel is in the works.