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 felt the desire to become a part of the steampunk community from the day she first met members of the Steampunk Society of Nebraska. At the time, she had been involved in martial arts for about six years, earning her black belt in Japanese sword fighting. Her roommate had been a fan of a steampunk band, Abney Park, and had introduced steampunk to her through that. But, Melissa “wasn’t really interested in going into a new direction” until she went to a convention at the Mid-America center where the Steampunk Society of Nebraska was hosting a steampunk ball (Conroy). She enjoyed herself so much that she decided steampunk was something she wanted to pursue (Conroy).
Melissa’s favorite aspect of steampunk is that, “[it’s] a very broad genre, but there’s really something of interest for everybody, whether it’s leather working, whether it’s sewing, whether it’s weaponry. You’ll find it in there” (Conroy). Melissa is very interested in history, and because her novels take place in the 1850s, historical accuracy is key. Writing a steampunk novel means that there is an incorporation of history with technology. Melissa does both in a realistic and true way. Some steampunk writers are criticized for a lack of authenticity in either social relations or technology. The glossing over the issues of racism or sexism are common, for example. While Melissa does not endorse racism or sexism, she does not shy away from the issues in her novels. She also stays true to real events that happened in that time period, like the Crimean War. She says, “I did everything from look up maps of the different battle fields, to pictures of the bay, to different commanders in the military hierarchy” (Conroy). The fusion of two things Melissa enjoys- history and writing- has been heavily influenced by her involvement in the steampunk community, hence, her two novels.
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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