Mel Torrefranca is a 19-year-old author and entrepreneur who has published several YA novels and runs a YouTube channel with over 40K subscribers where she makes videos about her life and writing journey. She also has her own indie publishing house, Lost Island Press, which specializes in dark young adult fiction.
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I’ve been a fan of Mel’s YouTube channel and books for about a year now, so I was super excited when she agreed to do a guest post! Without further ado, let’s get onto the interview.
The Interview Questions
1) What inspired you to become a writer, and when did you write your first novel?
I started writing seriously at the age of ten after reading The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester. Seven years later, I published my debut novel Leaving Wishville (2020)
2) What has your experience been like as a teen author, and what advice would you give to other teens who want to get their work published?
Age means very little to me. Writing and publishing a book as a teenager didn’t make the process easier or more challenging, so I’m glad I launched my career when I did.
My main piece of advice for young writers is to stop overthinking and get started. I’ve received emails from countless teens expressing concern that they’re too young or lack enough experience to write a book. Don’t let fears like these stop you from achieving your dreams. If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never be ready.
3) All of your books have extremely creative premises—where do you find inspiration for your stories?
I’ve found that my best ideas come when I least expect them to, striking randomly throughout the day. When I sit for an intentional brainstorm, music definitely gets the ideas flowing.
4) What does your writing process usually look like?
I use a fast-drafting method to plot and write a book within one to three months. From there, the time consuming part is the editing process, which includes receiving and analyzing feedback from beta readers. When I’m in deep writing mode, such as when I have a deadline approaching, I usually edit for at least four hours a day—either in the morning or at night. I create schedules for myself, outlining which chapters to work on each day before my deadline and prioritize writing over my other projects. But usually, I write in my free time.
5) Has doing YouTube affected your life as a writer? If so, how?
My writing and YouTube projects definitely go hand-in-hand. YouTube has opened the doors to many writing-related opportunities for me, and for that I’m extremely grateful.
6) Tell us some more about Lost Island Press: what made you want to start your own publishing house, and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
Lost Island Press is an independent publishing house that specializes in dark young adult fiction. I founded this startup with a passion for storytelling and a desire to innovate the old-fashioned publishing industry.
7) Lost Island Press specializes in dark young adult fiction. How do you define this genre, and why does it appeal to you?
Books of any genre can be categorized as dark fiction for having a grim writing style and a bittersweet or unsatisfying ending. Classics like Lord of the Flies, modern mysteries like One of Us is Lying, and dystopian stories such as The Giver all claim a space in the dark fiction category.
I gravitated toward dark young adult fiction at a young age, and that never changed. Because I dedicate so much time to each of our publications, it was a no-brainer for my publishing house to specialize in my favorite style of stories. Lost Island Press may be a startup business, but it’s my passion project first.
8) You have discussed on your YouTube channel why you decided not to go to college. How did you make this decision, and what advice would you give to others in a similar position? Is there anything you wish you knew before deciding to pursue writing and entrepreneurship instead of going to university?
I’ve always had entrepreneurial interests growing up. After founding Lost Island Press in high school, I realized that college would only delay running my business full-time.
Choosing not to go to college was a challenging decision, and I would not blindly recommend that every young entrepreneur do the same. We all have different circumstances, relationships, and life goals to consider. For those currently stuck in the college debate, my advice is to avoid stressing too much over the decision. Be patient with yourself and take time to weigh the pros and cons. Although it may feel like a permanent decision, you can always leave college or return to college later.
The main thing I wish I knew before choosing entrepreneurship over university is that having more time doesn’t make running a business easy. As an entrepreneur, you need to create a schedule for yourself and be self-motivated enough to enforce it.
9) Recently you have documented your move to Thailand on your YouTube channel. Has the experience of living in a new country affected the way you approach writing?
Moving abroad as a young adult has given me so many new experiences and perspectives. I’ve met interesting people, tried foreign foods, improved my stress-management skills, and much more. In only six months of living in Thailand, I’ve witnessed a huge improvement in my fictional stories. The more experiences I have, the more I can write about authentically.
10) Finally, you’re currently working on a YA dystopian trilogy called Belladonna—can you tell us some more about this project?
The Belladonna trilogy is my most ambitious writing project yet. To write it well, I need real-life experience, which is why I’ve started a new series on my YouTube channel called Belladonna: Behind the Scenes. Every month, I share a personal experience that has helped me improve the story, such as training in Muay Thai and living with monks.
The first book in the Belladonna trilogy, Nightshade Academy, is set for release in 2023.
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