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June 5, 2016 at 11:39 am

Alum Talks about his Second Novel, ‘The Salted Air’

Manawatu Standard reporter Carly Thomas interviewed Ohio University alum Thom Conroy ’02Ph.D. about his newly released second novel, The Salted Air.

Conroy is a senior lecturer at Massey University in New Zealand. He earned a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University.

Being a writer is a funny old thing to do. You have to look deep down into the arcane and then turn it inside out and project it into the light. Often it’s torture, sometimes it’s bliss but it is always necessary.

For Palmerston North author and Massey lecturer Thom Conroy it’s his everyday. Words form his world and ideas come hard and fast. His new novel The Salted Air has been carried around with him for some time, in between thoughts rather than pages as the penning of it got shelved while he wrote his first novel, The Naturalist.

The Naturalist was a hit, knocking Eleanor Catton off her long reign at the top of the the bestsellers list. Conroy took the historical character of Ernst Dieffenbach, scientist, loner, rebel and gave him a voice which resounded. It was a voice from the past, though, and The Salted Air‘s central character Djuna was still very present.

Conroy says the novel is a vague revisiting of the first thing he ever wrote way back in the experimental, reckless first years at university in his homeland of America. The main character of that was also a young woman, as is Djuna. But years have gone by; Conroy lives in New Zealand now, with his partner Suzanne Chelius and their two children, Zora and Walker….

The novel has been a way also for Conroy to write his way into the New Zealand landscape, a place that he calls home but is really secondary to a country very far from him now. Conroy grew up in America. He was the first person in his family to go to university, where he studied literature. He worked as a technical editor for a while, which he says showed him what he “didn’t want to do” and then got on to the creative writing path, which he followed with earnest, gaining a PHD in creative writing at Ohio University and then a post-doctorate fellowship.

Thom Conroy

Thom Conroy

“Conroy is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. His historical novel, The Naturalist, was published with Penguin-Random House in 2014, and his short fiction has appeared in various journals in New Zealand and abroad, including Landfall, Sport, New England Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Agni. His fiction has been recognised by Best American Short Stories 2012 and has won various other awards, including the Katherine Ann Porter Prize in Fiction and the Sunday Star-Times Short Fiction Competition. In 2013 he received a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence,” according to his webpage.

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