Family in Focus

The write life

Teen turns school assignment into published novella ‘The Kiss of Death’

McHenry County Magazine

Can you imagine being a published novelist as a teenager? Nineteen-year-old Sarah Mondello can. 

The Crystal Lake resident, who goes by the pen name Sarah Natale, became an author of historical fiction after an assignment given by her creative writing teacher took on a life of its own. 

“I probably would not have attempted a book-length historical fiction on my own, but it was an assignment in Jerry Thiel’s senior creative writing class at Crystal Lake Central High School,” she says. “The end-of-semester project was to write a seven- to 10-page historical fiction short story, but my passion for the time period and excitement during the research process drove me to go above and beyond that requirement.”

Mondello ended up writing “The Kiss of Death” – a story about a distantly royal young adult living in 14th century London during the outbreak of bubonic plague.

Having an intense curiosity about the subject and a love of writing were resources to Mondello, but there were some challenges – one of which she chose. 

“I asked Thiel for advice on whether to choose the 14th- or 17th-century outbreak of plague for my project, and he recommended the 17th because it would be easier to find information on the time period,” she says. “However, I ultimately chose 1348 because I wanted the challenge.” 

“It WAS harder to find information on it, but, when I did, it was more rewarding,” she adds.

Mondello’s own tenacity is something that she built into her protagonist Elizabeth Chauncey. 

“This is a period of growth for her amidst a time of strife, and she is a survivor,” Mondello says of the character. “I admire that trait in a character, as I would in real life. In some ways she is like me: She knows what she wants, has a clear plan to get there and is willing to make sacrifices to do what needs to be done in order to make the best of things.”

When she was 17 years old, she wrote the book. When she was 18 years old, “The Kiss of Death” won a literary award from the Woodstock Fine Arts Association.

“I was offered a contract with a publisher on Christmas Eve … and I signed with Kellan Publishing,” the young author says. 

When Mondello was 19 years old, her book was released.

Although her website hints at a sequel, she says that her current focus has been on sharing her experience as a young author. 

“With an educational connection to literature, history and biology, my book has roots in the classroom – and not just because it was written in one,” she says. 

Mondello made sure that her book could be used by teachers and students in the classroom. 

“I developed a stand-alone educator guide correlated to Common Core Curriculum national education standards,” she says. “My guide has been a helpful resource for McHenry County teachers.”

Mondello has one year left as a student at Drake University.

“I’m pursuing majors in creative writing and public relations, with a minor in graphic design,” she says. 

Mondello (Sarah Natale) also does local speaking engagements where she has a prepared presentation and enjoys talking to other young, budding writers.

υ For more information about “The Kiss of Death” by Sarah Natale, visit

Loading more

Digital Access

Digital Access
Access and all Shaw Media Illinois content from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, weekend and Sunday packages.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Stay connected to us wherever you are! Get breaking news updates along with other area information sent to you as a text message to your wireless device.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Plan your weekend and catch up on the news with our newsletters.