Interview with steampunk author Melissa Ann Conroy.
1. What inspired you to write a steampunkish Victorian story and are you planning a series?
I’m in the midst of writing the Aether Saga, a “historical steampunk” series that spans 1854-1857 and encompasses a number of historical events such as the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The first book of the series “Steam on the Horizon” is available and I’m at work on “Clouds of War” which focuses on the Crimean War.
There is no one inspiration point for this series: for me, steampunk is the perfect merger of almost all my nerdy pursuits. A number of different factors were involved in the conception of the Aether Saga. Currently I’m a medical helicopter dispatcher and much of what I deal with at work (lift time, weather conditions, bird strikes) find their way into my writing. I’ve also traveled to ten countries and will incorporate some of them into the Aether Saga.
2. Which was more challenging, your costumes or your work on Steam on the Horizon?
“Steam on the Horizon” was my first published book. Going the entire distance from idea to bound copy was a difficult endeavor that would have been easy to abandon. However, creating costumes is not easy either: I am currently modifying a pattern for an 1888 style Victorian dress, and I intend to sew the final dress on my great-grandmother’s old Singer pedal sewing machine. Of the two, writing is infinitely more challenging but also rewarding.
3. What steampunk/Victorian films have influenced you?
Most definitely the new Holmes movies with Robert Downey Junior.
4. Favorite author(s)?
Terry Pratchett is my all-time favorite author, and Bill Bryson runs a close second for his ability to skillfully blend fascinating history with his accustomed graceful wit: both authors have had an enormous influence on my writing style. Cheri Priest is my steampunk author inspiration, and Peter Mayle is also one of my favorite writers.
5. What books are you reading now?
I just picked up “A Bloodier Rose”, the second book in the steampunk series The Sauder Diaries series by Michel Vaillancourt. Michel is excellent for his meticulous attention to technical details, and he approaches his writing with the eye of an engineer.
6. Who created your cover art?
Canadian artist Brent Schreiber www.brentschreiber.com
7. Would you call yourself a steampunk?
Stylistically, I don’t like the sound of the sentence, “I’m a steampunk” but I uphold the sentiment behind the statement. Yes, I subscribe to the asethetics and mindset of the steampunk movement and revel in being “retro futuristic”. While I would be loath to give up penicillin and air conditioning, much of me would gleefully take up residence in an alternate steampunk universe.
8. Do you like steampunk music?
I absolutely adore Abney Park. In fact, their song “Building Steam” became my theme music for the last year, particularly when I walked away from my job to write. I’ve also been recently introduced to Sunday Driver, a band that is making a splash in the steampunk world.
9. Do you have a mentor?
I’ve been blessed to speak with a number of fellow writers such as Michel Vaillancourt and the husband/wife steampunk writing duo Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine who have cheerfully offered their support and feedback. I also have a strong core group of local friends who serve as my writing comitatus, including my friend Matt Manning who has served as my unofficial editor.
10. What sort of research do you do for your books?
I’ve researched cholera epidemics, wet-bulb temperature readings, gangrene infections, 19th century cargo shipping costs, fluid bed boiler designs, and a thousand other topics. Basically, the Aether Saga is an excuse for me to research whatever stray wisp of conjecture that happens to capture my attention.
11. Have you ever had writer’s block and what did you do to work through it?
Writer’s block and its companion ihatethisstupidbookititus were regular visitors to my keyboard. However, I kept battling through because I had made a commitment to finish the series. What helped is that I had financial backers and had built up a modest fan base that was awaiting the finished book. I wasn’t about to let them down, so I stuck it out and got it done.
12. What are your thoughts of Kickstarter and Indigogo?
For the uninitiated, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are both crowd-sourcing platforms where you can raise financial funding for a creative project. I tried both and of the two, I recommend Indiegogo. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing program: unless you receive full backing for your project, you don’t get a dime. With Indiegogo, you can receive all the backing that is donated for your project, even if you don’t make full funding. I raised some funds on
Indiegogo that helps me stay unemployed for six months and write.
(lucky)13. Is there anything that you would like to add?
I decided to go the self-publishing route and have not regretted it. Granted, this means I have done all the work from typesetting to marketing, but it has been an incredible journey and I have enjoyed the adventure.
Thank you for your time Melissa!
If you would like a brief description of “Steam on the Horizon,” check out my earlier post at https://gnostalgia.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/steam-on-the-horizon/. You can purchase a copy of the book through Amazon by clicking on the graphic.
“Steam on the Horizon” is certainly a book that I will add to my reading list.
To learn more about Melissa Ann Conroy go to…