First novel in the Aether Saga
Second novel in the Aether Saga.
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 to steampunk, before many of her travels, and before she had many useful experiences that led to the creation of her novels. Melissa also credits writing her Master’s thesis to improving her writing skills. Writing a thesis of about one hundred twenty pages was a “good work in creating a large, long piece of text that made coherent sense” (Conroy). There is no doubt that this a useful experience when it came time to write her novels.
Once an idea was formed and a draft was written, self-publishing was the next step in the writing process. Melissa used a program on Amazon called CreateSpace to publish her novels under the name of Steamygirl Publishing. There are different ways to go about self-publishing. With CreateSpace, there is the option of either paying for them to do services, or she could do it herself. She decided to typeset the pages herself, which she described as a “frustrating process” (Conroy). There are also people available to edit the novel and create a cover for it. Melissa hired an artist to do her covers, rather than have Amazon create something (Conroy). She stresses the importance of thorough editing, especially when self-publishing.
There are pros and cons to self-publishing. The biggest challenge with self-publishing, according to Melissa, is marketing. She attends conventions and author fairs where she sells her books, but it takes skill and patience to earn profits. “When you’re self-published, you do everything. You are your own agent, you are your own marketer,” (Conroy). But, there is a great benefit to self-publishing, and that is creative control. Melissa liked the idea of retaining her rights, rather than likely having to sign them away to a traditional publisher, because she wanted to write her novels a certain way (Conroy). By serving as her own editor, Melissa did not have to cut things out like she may have had to do otherwise. Morris Publishing points out another incentive for self-publishing: “The finished copies, the copyright, all subsidiary rights, and all money received from book sales are exclusively yours” (Morris Publishing). Self-publishing may not earn an author as much credibility as a traditional publishing route would, but it has its merits, especially in a subgenre such as steampunk, where the public demand is not as high as other genres.
When asked what the best part about being a writer is, Melissa says that she views writing as her “intellectual playground” where she can enjoy doing research while giving people enjoyment (Conroy). “Having people come up and say, ‘I really love your books. When’s the next one coming out?’ That’s a very good thing” (Conroy). Writing is not just a way to see her name in print or to earn income—it is much more to that. During a conversation with her father about what it means to consider something a calling, Melissa, “realized that it’s something you can’t help but do…I know that writing is a calling because I have to do it. Not in this negative, ‘I have to do it,’ but, ‘I must do this- this flows out of my being” (Conroy).
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