Read Mel Torrefranca’s Introduction to Maelin

Maelin wasn’t supposed to exist.

After publishing the first book in the Belladonna series, Nightshade Academy, I dove straight into writing the second one, but the idea of this companion novella wouldn’t stop pestering me. I eventually accepted that I couldn’t not write it.

So I put Underground Royalty on hold, and here we are.

Maelin is told through the eyes of Blimmery, my favorite instructor in Nightshade Academy. He’s a charismatic guardian in his early fifties, a warm light in the cold Force. However, as the plot unfolds, readers learn that behind his laughter lies a heavy burden.

When Blimmery was twenty-two years old, he wrote a false article for the press about how his fellow guardian Maelin died. His lingering remorse for doing so compels him to prevent Yahshi—an Academy trainee who thinks like Maelin—from suffering the same fate as her.

Perhaps you’re wondering why I’d write this novella, considering how Nightshade Academy exposes the ending. What more is there to tell?

Well, quite a lot, actually.

The idea struck me in the summer of 2023, soon before Nightshade Academy’s publication. I was tweaking Chapter 25, in which Yahshi reads about Maelin in the archives. What if Blimmery did more than write a lie about her death? I wondered. What if he was involved in the events leading up to it?

From those questions arose Maelin, which dives even deeper into Blimmery’s past. While the history uncovered in Nightshade Academy is indeed the truth, it’s only a morsel of it.

The first challenge of writing this book was fleshing out how and why Blimmery gets involved in Maelin’s death. The story underwent multiple iterations before I settled on the version you’re about to read. I’m glad I integrated Blimmery’s disgraced family and his passion for writing into the central conflict.

The next challenge was defining Blimmery and Maelin’s relationship. I knew they would graduate together, but I didn’t know how close they should be. My initial plan was to mirror their bond with Yahshi and Vell’s, but after some thought, that choice felt trite. Of course the ending would be tragic if Maelin died as Blimmery’s best friend!

I wanted a fresh direction that would require pushing my creative boundaries to land the ending with a solid punch. Would it be more intriguing, I asked myself, if Blimmery was an acquaintance instead of a friend? An outsider looking in? A third wheel, perhaps?

The answer was an electrifying yes. I loved the idea of Blimmery caring about Maelin without being her bestie. And that’s where Taig came in.

Writing Taig’s dynamic with Mae and his verbal jabs at Blim Blim left me laughing alone in my pitch black apartment night after night. Maelin is the first book where I encouraged myself to be as silly as possible, and I hope it shows.

What began as an opportunity to purge a pesky idea out of my system turned into a book that I spent hundreds of hours on over the course of four months. I’m talking tears, laughter, and lattes—the full deal.

Don’t be fooled—Maelin is not a spinoff but a tale woven tightly into the Belladonna series. While you don’t have to read this novella to understand the main books, or vice versa, I planted Easter eggs and cross-references for the enjoyment of those who do.

Maelin has been loads of fun, but I’m ready to grieve the loss of a story I love—and let it go. So, without further ado, I invite you to turn the page and travel thirty-six years before Nightshade Academy, to when Blimmery was not yet an instructor, but a trainee himself.

I’ll regroup with you in the acknowledgments. Until then, this story is Blimmery’s to tell.

Mel Torrefranca
Chiang Mai, Thailand
March 23, 2024

Mel Torrefranca

Mel Torrefranca is a novelist from the San Francisco Bay Area, now residing in the jungly mountains of Northern Thailand. Her books feature morally gray characters, bold endings, and a pinch of awkward humor. Mel discovered her passion for writing at the age of seven and published her debut novel Leaving Wishville during high school. She also drinks way too many lattes.