The Story Behind Belladonna

2013 – 2018

In 2013, at age ten, I started writing The Sky Weeps With Us, a dystopian novel about sad kids on a gloomy island. After three years of work, I self-published it ridden with typos and a cover thrown together without graphic design experience. To put it simply, the book sucked.

In late 2018, I unpublished the atrocity and gave it the funeral it deserved.

2019 – 2021

Now a high school student, I spent almost all my free time working on Leaving Wishville, a novel I hoped would restore my honor. I professionally launched it in 2020 through my publishing company Lost Island Press, soon followed by Capsule in 2021.

After Capsule’s publication, while I was grappling with what to write next, the characters from The Sky Weeps With Us came back to haunt me. There was much debate, but I eventually acknowledged the story’s potential and decided to rewrite my unpublished book as a fantasy series titled Belladonna.


At eighteen, I moved from Northern California to Northern Thailand, which inspired me to incorporate some new experiences into my writing. I spent the next two months revising Nightshade Academy, the first book in the Belladonna series.

When I sent an early draft to beta readers for constructive criticism, a common complaint was that my fight scenes were unrealistic. For research purposes, I joined a local Muay Thai gym and documented my first month of training in a YouTube video.

As I had hoped, the experience helped me improve the fight scenes in Nightshade Academy, and the concept of tackling personal challenges to benefit the trilogy excited me. I became addicted to a style of writing I’d never explored before.

And thus began the Belladonna: Behind the Scenes YouTube series. For six months in 2022, I documented the unique experiences that rewriting The Sky Weeps With Us called me to pursue. My goal at the start of every adventure was to improve the plot and characters, but I always left with so much more. I started to ask myself, Am I writing this story, or is this story writing me?

Early 2023

Beginning in early 2023, I released the first half of Nightshade Academy as an immersive fiction podcast. While it’s not a direct adaptation of the story like an audiobook would be, the plot is mostly the same. The podcast features me as the narrator, a full cast of voice actors, and a fully original soundtrack.

Cast & Crew

Mel Torrefranca


Wilson Hensley


Juan Pablo Diaz

Editor & Masterer

Gita Puspita Asri

Score Composer

James Sinclair-Stott

Theme Song Composer & Producer

Jason Brown

Yahshi Konya

Anthony Andres Echeverry

Pinto Dempsey

Philip Kraaijenhof

Pinto Dempsey & Chima Fernis

Melissa White

Vell Patura

Alex Bui

Quax Avarium

Conner Blunck

Keiyo Pickett

Kody Kiehl

Sunna Rickabee

Ben Awtry

Limbo & Ceylon Brackle

Walter Mack

Dice Bayin

Patrick Vierzba

Commander Roz

Julia Ristow

Professor Embre

David John-Bores

Doctor Blimmery

Ellie Chua

Cal Avarium

Gwyneth Evans

Alora Valentine

Jeff Rosenau

Martu Konya

Lucas Hensley

Durlan Ouzo & Sitra Student

Levi Titus

Rugan Whitter & Sitra Student

Angie Eggers

Sitra Student

Willem Digard


Alison Prophet


Maria Palmö

Sitra Resident

Late 2023 – 2024

I published Nightshade Academy in late 2023, officially launching the Belladonna series.

Six months later, I also published Maelin, a companion novella set in the same world—but not part of the main series.

The second book, Underground Royalty, is scheduled to launch on November 11, 2024.