In the beginning…
I was born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Beginning in 1966 and for the next thirty years my father, novelist William Hardy, worked for the Cherokee Historical Association, first as Director of the symphonic drama Unto These Hills, which chronicles the events leading up to the Trail of Tears, the removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma, then as its Producer. As a result I spent seven summers on the Qualla boundary, the reservation of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. My 1995 short story collection, Constant Fire (Oberon) was set there and draws heavily on the history and mythology of that area, as was a later novel, Broken Road (Exile Editions, 2009.)
Viking Press published my first novel, A Cry of Bees, in 1970 when I was a mere 17 years old. Don’t ask me how that happened. Cry of Bees is the story of a little girl growing up in a Southern Indiana boarding house full of decrepit old ladies. It’s definitely what I’d call black humor. Out of print for many years, it can be found in most libraries and occasionally online at such sites as www.abebooks.com.
In the twenty-five year publishing hiatus which followed, I:
- took a BA in English with Honors in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- learned French, Latin, Italian, Greek and German
- earned an MA and All-But-Dissertation for a PhD in post classical history at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Medieval Studies, writing on that fourth-century, neoclassical powerhouse, Athanasius of Alexandria.
- was awarded many scholarships, among them the Dumbarton Oakes Fellowship, Massey College Junior Fellowship, AAUW Fellowship, Connaught Fellowship and a Fullbright to Rome which I didn’t take, but, hey, they gave it to me!
- became a Catholic and lapsed
- became an Italiophile and never lapsed
- suffered catastrophic illness in the form of Guillian-Barre Syndrome, which left me paralyzed and in hospital for a very long time
- learned to walk again
- raised three kids (Sabrina, Alice and William Miller), and acquired two more (Shanah and Raina Trevenna) when I married Ken Trevenna, a professional musician and CFO of the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology (OIART). Ken hales from Northern Ontario, which provided me with both the inspiration and the setting for my short story collection The Uncharted Heart and a later novel, Surface Rights.
- worked as a journalist and business communicator, logging twenty five years as the Director of Communications for the London and St. Thomas Association of REALTORS®.
In 1994 I won the Journey Prize for the most accomplished work to appear in a Canadian literary journal for Long Man the River, an excerpt from Constant Fire, originally published in Exile, then republished in both The Journey Prize Anthology (McClelland & Stewart) and Best Canadian Short Stories (Oberon, 1994). That was a blast. I was also nominated for the finalist for the Western Magazine Awards Program for fiction for The Ice Woman and my work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories of 1999, Best American Short Stories of 2001, Houghton-Mifflin and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, St. Martin’s Press.
The Uncharted Heart is set in the Porcupine region of Northern Ontario around the time of the Gold Rush and was published in 2001 by Knopf Canada. It received the Canadian Authors Association Jubilee Award. The Geomancer’s Compass, published in 2012 by Tundra, is a young adult novel in which ancient Chinese cosmology and Augmented Reality work in conjunction to lay a generations-long curse and Surface Rights, published in 2013 by Dundurn Press, is a contemporary novel about family and belonging. My upcoming novel, The Oracle of Cumae, is set in the Italian Marches in the eighteenth century. The publisher is Second Story Press.
I have been a Canadian citizen for the past 29 years, although I retain my American citizenship and am active politically, and make my home in Port Stanley, Ontario in a house overlooking Lake Erie with husband Ken Trevenna and golden retriever Nellie.
[…] Hardy grew up in Chapel Hill, but spent a lot of her time in Cherokee, where her parents, William and Martha Nell Hardy, were producers/directors/sometimes actors for the symphonic drama “Unto These Hills,” about the forced removal of the Cherokee from the Appalachians. This time inspired her first published collection of short stories, Constant Fire (1995), which is set in the Qualla Boundary. […]
i was the lucky person to work with Melissa for over 25 years at the Real Estate Board and am happy to say we are still friends today in our retirement … looking forward to the new book … question will i be able to download it to my KOBO?
Mellissa — is your dad still with us? I remember both your mom and dad, and his name came up in a recent conversation. I googled a bit and came across this site. I was an RTVMP student at UNC, and connected in various ways to NC outdoor dramas….
Hi, Cindy. Dad is living at the Dubose Centre at The Cedars of Chapel Hill, which is a nursing home. He is 96, blind and deaf as a post but still remarkably possessed of his faculties and as sunny as ever. He is remarkable and we cherish him. I will tell him you asked after him. He will be very touched. Thanks for contacting me.
why can”t I print your bio–reading the Heiffer in my Lit class–wanted my students to know more about you???????
Dear Melissa, Some years back, I picked up and much enjoyed your story in one of the editions of Best American Short Stories, so I’m happy I found this website and could say thanks for some enjoyable downtime. I will be picking up copies of a couple of your books next time I am out at that great American institution Barnes and Noble, which, aside from the Center of the Earth, Walmart, is the only place that carries books where I live these days–Morganton, NC.
I am sure you would not remember me, but I danced with you one year in the Drama about a thousand years ago, somewhere around 1973(?). Anyway, I was Judy Holland back then, and your dad hired me late, just as the season was starting. I did not live on the compound as I was divorced from an early marriage at age 16, had a little girl who my grandmother (a Cooper family member, if you recall those folks) kept for me while I worked (and played), and my mother owned the Pioneer Motel. I seem to recall that you spent a great deal of the summer holed up in your room writing and some of it with one of the few straight cast members, a skinny kid by the name of Mike, or something. Anyway, after the summer, I went to Durham and got hired at Duke as a medical editor for a journal, met my present husband, who had come to Duke for his medical Residency training and went back to school at Chapel Hill and got my master’s degree in clinical social work. Later, we had another child (and now have a 14-year-old adopted son). We have moved around the country a bit, and I I got all but the dissertation finished in social work at Arizona State University when we moved to Scottsdale, Arizona for five years.
We actually returned to Cherokee and lived there for five years when my mom got incapacitated and had to go into Tsali Nursing Home. My husband, Frank, took over as psychiatrist for the Tribe for five years! Ah, the books I could write about that experience!!!
Anyway, after that, we decided to come to Broughton Hospital, where people are so much saner than in Cherokee. Morganton is okay for a little town. We are struggling a bit as our 37-year-old daughter and her three children, ages 5, 2 and 1 moved home to live with us last March. A household of seven is not quite what I had envisioned at this stage in my life!
In any case, I was saddened to hear of your mother’s death. Is your dad still living somewhere around Chapel Hill? I thought that, perhaps if he is, I will stop to visit him when I am there sometime. My eldest, Cari, is married with two high school kids, and is a pediatric intensive care nurse at Memorial Hospital in Chapel Hill. Her husband is also an ICU nurse there. They own a home in Pittsboro and I get over there to see them from time to time.
I know that your dad’s mother lived to a very ripe age, so I am hoping that he is still kicking around okay.
Best to you.
I remember you very well, in fact. I think you might have lived in Bryson City at the time and had red hair. I remember the Cooper connection as well. You’re probably better off looking on either Amazon or Chapters.ca for my books; they never seem to make it to actual stores. You might be interested in either Constant Fire, a collection of shortstories about Cherokee or Broken Road, which is about the lead up to The Removal. Dad is now at the Dubose Center in Chapel Hill — the nursing home in connection with The Cedars of Chapel Hill. He is nearly blind (macular degeneration), very deaf and not mobile, but his mind is intact and he loves visits or phone chats. His number is 919-259-7154 and the address is 101 Green Cedars Lane, Chapel Hill 27514. I will tell him you got in touch with me and wished him well. I think you would also have known my older brother Michael. He is now living in Greenville and is the Director of the Institute for Outdoor Drama — talk about the acorn not falling far from the tree. My younger brother Peter lives in Atlanta where he runs a small theater company. Thank you so much for getting in touch; it was great to hear from you and best wishes with your expanded household. Between my husband and me we have five children but realize that an empty nest at the moment does not mean an empty nest forever.
Ordered two of your books today at Chapters…Surface Rights, and the new one…name escapes me at the moment…Won’t arrive for a week so can’t take them with me on holiday…but will be waiting for me on my return…I recognize you, Melissa, from GoodLife…haven’t crossed paths in a bit but always recall your beautiful knitting…you wore a great little workout top cover the one day that was obviously your handiwork…anyway, looking forward to your novels..happy to support local talent, sincerely, mj egan
On a 6 hour round-trip recently, I listened to the short story collection with “The Heifer” in it. Between Richard Ford’s “Puppy” and your story, there were no contenders (despite the other authors’ illustriousness). A riveting and compelling story, so well-told. Thank you.
Thank you SO much. You absolutely made my day. And I’m a big fan of Richard Ford myself. Thanks for reaching out. You might enjoy my most recent novel, Surface Rights, published by Dundurn Press.
What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious know-how on the
topic of unexpected feelings.
Yes, I’m Lonnie’s oldest (adopted) daughter. Leon, Necia, and myself still live within 15 minutes of Stillwater. Both of the houses are now student rentals, but I’ll take pictures and send them along to you. I forwarded a couple of your stories on to Necia and Kristina. Such wonderful trips down memory lane. I would really love to see any other old pictures you have of the Great Zants or any of my Grandmother. I think the last time I saw your dad was at Grandmother Zants funeral, but I saw your mom when she was doing one of her one woman plays in Anaheim, CA. My mom and I went, I think it may have been the one about the Donner Party. I’m looking forward to this weekend when I can read some more of your tales. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
My name is Paula and I work at the Port Stanley Library and I would like to speak to you about possibly coming to the library for a presentation. Please call me for more info.
Sure, Paula. I’ve been meaning to go down to the library and introduce myself. What phone number would be best to reach you?
519-782-4241 I am there all day thursday
I will call then. Thanks.
Hello Melissa, this is your 2nd cousin Dawni. I was just surfing the web today and happened across your blog after Googling James H Zant. I have loved reading some of your family tales and looking through the pictures. Grandmother Lewis never told the really old stories, but she did tell a few about Great Grandmother. As a child, I played that baby grand, without every knowing it’s history. Thank you so much for recording these. Please, telling the stories and posting pictures. Would you like me to take pictures of the houses,here in Stillwater, that are still standing?
Dawni! How wonderful to hear from you! You were Lonnie’s daughter, as I recall, and I certainly remember my Aunt Mary Elizabeth speaking warmly of you. I would love photos of the houses. You’re still living in Stillwater, I take it.