Profile By: Anna Russo
Many people dream of publishing a novel, but never do. Melissa Conroy turned her dream into a reality through her determination and a copious amount of hard work. It was a combination of her upbringing, educational accomplishments, travels, and an interesting array of hobbies that led to her two self-published novels. They are categorized as steampunk and titled Steam on the Horizon and Clouds of War. Melissa is a woman worthy of having her story shared because her achievements are not limited solely to her two novels. She has also taught college classes at UNO and Metropolitan Community College, is currently a medical helicopter dispatcher, and has started a ministry for Christian singles called Word and Flesh Ministries. Her work has, and will continue to, benefit the Omaha community.
Melissa Conroy was born on December 13, 1979, in Omaha, Nebraska, just two months after her parents began building the house she would grow up in. Her father, Marty, has been an electrician and computer specialist for much of her life, and her mother, Marsha, is a French and Spanish translator. Marsha’s career as a translator is relatively recent, but her background is in linguistics and language. Her mother’s “good way with words” certainly was a positive influence on Melissa’s creative aspirations (Conroy). However, in her youth, Melissa had interests outside of writing. She loved horses, so she worked with them from ages ten to sixteen until she became bored with them, or “had been kicked one too many times,” and took up dance instead (Conroy). She continued with dance until high school.
As for schooling, Melissa went to public school
Melissa completed her undergraduate degree at Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Georgia in 2001. Toccoa Falls is a Christian liberal arts college, and Melissa received her degree in English while “essentially [double-majoring] in both English and Theology” (Conroy). She felt it wise to continue with her studies, which led her back to Omaha. Melissa says, “When I left Omaha, I swore I’d never come back,” but it was the allure of in-state tuition that brought her home (Conroy). However, right after graduating from Toccoa Falls, Melissa studied abroad at the University of Oxford in England for a month. She says, “I didn’t really study as much as I walked around the city going, ‘Ooh, look at Oxford!’ and ate lots of scones, and drank lots of tea” (Conroy). Her time at Oxford not only gave her cultural experience, it provided
Teaching was just one of several jobs that Melissa has held over her adult life. Additionally, she did occasional freelance writing, was an English instructor on a UNO television program, The Knowledge Network, and had renters in her house, all before deciding to enter the corporate field (Conroy). Wanting a little more stability, Melissa worked for Scola, an education company, for a year and a half (Conroy). It was during this time that Melissa developed the ideas for the Aether Saga, her first series of steampunk novels. About this period in her life, Melissa says, “I was not very happy at my job, so I finally made the decision I was going to quit and just stay at home and write for as long as I could survive financially” (Conroy). She did some fundraising and used her credit cards to
Traveling to other countries enables a writer to experience first-hand other cultures and beliefs. These experiences affect not just their work, but their life as well. Melissa has explored ten other countries thus far: England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Morocco, Spain, Gibraltar, Mexico, Honduras, and Canada. Some of those locations have been the site of mission trips, while others were recreational visits. She says, “My parents, my family and I went to Mexico three times in one year on some mission trips. I went to Honduras right after the Hurricane of ’98 hit and we did some restoration/missionary work down there” (Conroy). She also went to England, Scotland, Belgium, and France on a six-week long mission’s tour doing different undertakings (Conroy).
Of all the different areas in Melissa’s life, steampunk has been incredibly influential to her as a writer. Steampunk is, according to a popular steampunk website, “first and foremost a literary genre, or at least a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy that includes social or technological aspects of the 19th century (the steam) usually with some deconstruction of, reimagining of, or rebellion against parts of it (the punk)” (JRRL). It is a hobby or lifestyle that includes books, music, fashion, and even a life philosophy. Steampunk romanticizes certain aspects of the Victorian era, such as the attire, while incorporating steam technology and a strong belief in originality. Do-it-yourself projects and self-publishing are common among people interested in steampunk.
Melissa published her first novel in the Aether Saga, Steam on the Horizon in May of 2013. The second book, Clouds of War, followed in September of 2014. She enjoyed writing growing up, but had a problem with coming up with plots until she discovered fan fiction (Conroy). For several years, Melissa wrote fan fiction as a way to lay the groundwork for plot forming. Growing more mature also helped with her writing skills. She says that, “there’s definitely young writers, but sometimes I think you need some life experience and a certain level of maturity before you really have good content to write about. Not for everybody, but that was my own life,” (Conroy). If Melissa had begun writing novels in her twenties, they would be entirely different than the ones she has written now. That was before her introduction
Writing may be a calling for Melissa, but it is not the only one for her. Taking initiative to connect to a unique category of people in the Omaha community, Christian singles, Melissa began a ministry program in 2014. A statement on the Word and Flesh Ministries website explains its intent:
Word and Flesh Ministries is an outreach for single Christians with a three-fold purpose:
• To provide theologically supported truths about marriage and singleness
• To actively encourage and support marriage-minded Christian singles who desire to find godly spouses
• To meet the needs of and provide encouragement
Between helping out those in need, writing novels, working, and spending time with her beloved basset hound, Erasmus, Melissa leads a busy life. She has already accomplished a great deal, but the future is sure to hold even more for her. It is no wonder that a person which such as unique personality chose steampunk as a hobby. Self-publishing under an up-and-coming literary subgenre is not an easy task, but Melissa took the challenge in stride. Melissa’s life is evidence that all experiences are important for personal growth and success, whether it be through traveling, working, education, or hobbies.