An Interview with Tiffany McDaniel, Author of The Summer That Melted Everything

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Having heard so many brilliant things about Tiffany McDaniel’s The Summer That Melted Everything, I’m delighted to welcome Tiffany in interview to Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate the paperback publication of the book.

Published by Scribe in the UK, The Summer That Melted Everything is available for purchase here.

The Summer That Melted Everything

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Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heatwave scorched the small town of Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.

When local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes an invitation to the devil to come to the country town of Breathed, Ohio, nobody quite expects that he will turn up. They especially don’t expect him to turn up as a tattered and bruised thirteen-year-old boy.

Fielding, the son of Autopsy, finds the boy outside the courthouse and brings him home, and he is welcomed into the Bliss family. The Blisses believe the boy, who calls himself Sal, is a runaway from a nearby farm town. Then, as a series of strange incidents implicate Sal ― and riled by the feverish heatwave baking the town from the inside out ― there are some around town who start to believe that maybe Sal is exactly who he claims to be.

But whether he’s a traumatised child or the devil incarnate, Sal is certainly one strange fruit: he talks in riddles, his uncanny knowledge and understanding reaches far outside the realm of a normal child ― and ultimately his eerily affecting stories of Heaven, Hell, and earth will mesmerise and enflame the entire town.

Devastatingly beautiful, The Summer That Melted Everything is a captivating story about community, redemption, and the dark places where evil really lies.

An Interview with Tiffany McDaniel

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Tiffany. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and The Summer That Melted Everything in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Linda.  So a little about me…I’m an Ohio poet and novelist.  I love gardening, baking, and creating art whether it’s drawing with charcoal or painting a canvas.  The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel.

Why do you write?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid.  Writing is really the first thing I remember doing without being told to do so.  I had an innate desire to write down what was in my head.  I think for most of us writers, we’re born to write.  We can only hope we’re fortunate enough to make a career out of it.

When did you realise you were going to be a writer?

Both of my parents had jobs, hard jobs that made them tired and not a lot of money.  I thought that’s what I would have to do in this world.  Have a job that I hated.  I didn’t get that distinction between a job and a career until I was in middle school.  Writing was so wonderful to me, I didn’t ever think of it as being work.

Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about The Summer That Melted Everything?

The Summer that Melted Everything is about a man who one day puts an invitation in the newspaper, inviting the devil to town.  A boy, claiming to be the devil, answers the invitation, only this boy is not your stereotypical devil of red flesh and horns.  This so-called devil’s arrival coincides with the start of a heat-wave that threatens to destroy the town’s very sanity.  As the summer unfolds, the boy’s presence has tragic consequences on the town and everyone in it.  Who is the real devil?  That is a question The Summer that Melted Everything sets out to answer.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

The easiest is the writing.  The hardest part is getting published.  While The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, it’s actually my fifth or sixth novel written.  I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen, and wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything.  It was a long eleven-year journey to publication, full of rejection and perseverance.  My writing is dark, and I was often told I was risky to publish, which is something I think female literary fiction writers often encounter in contrast to their male counterparts.  But if I had given up, I wouldn’t be where I am today with a book on the shelf.  So to all the writers out there on the journey to publication, I say, don’t let rejection destroy you.  Let rejection empower you.

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I never outline or plan the story beforehand.  If you plan a story too much, you can domesticate it in a way, and I like to preserve the story’s wild soul.  I also think a lot of creative energy is put into outlining, energy that is better spent in the actual writing of the story.  I like for the story to evolve with each new word and page that I write.  This is just what works best for me.  Each author has what works best for them, and that is the beauty of writing.

In The Summer That Melted Everything you explore the evil that is possible in ordinary people. How far do you think evil is part of the human condition?

With this novel, I really wanted to explore the good and evil within us all, but more than good and evil, I wanted to explore that grey area between the two.  The grey area that I think most of us live in.  We all have the potential to be good, and we all have the potential to be not so good.  We see this in the cast of characters within the novel.  It is how we choose to react to a situation, or to a person, that determines who we are.  In the end, I didn’t want a story that was out of reach.  I wanted a story that we could all identify with on some level, certainly on the level on which our human condition is crafted.

The Summer That Melted Everything has been described as allegorical. How far was this a conscious element and how far a natural part of your writing?

I’d say it’s just how I am as a writer.  I think every author is born with a particular tool set, and we use these tools to write the story to the best of our ability.  There are elements to my writing that will be present in all my books.  I’d say the allegorical and symbolic elements will always be one of the traits of my storytelling.

Heat is an integral part of your book. How did you ensure this iterative image melded seamlessly into your writing

I wanted the heat to feel like its own character.  And because weather isn’t a character that you often get to elaborate upon, I found writing about the heat to be one of the most interesting parts of writing this story.  The heat was a character that developed even more as the other characters developed around it.  The heat was always there, woven in ways that was a good exercise for the writing muscle.

You have had many accolades for The Summer That Melted Everything, including The Guardian’s 2016 ‘Not-the-Booker’ Prize. How does this make you feel?

It’s always wonderful when your work is recognized, and it certainly reassures the publisher and those who put stock in your writing, but it’s important to not let these things go to your head.  All you can hope to do as a writer is to write the characters’ truths to the best of your ability, and hope that the readers enjoy it.

If you could choose to be a character from The Summer That Melted Everything, who would you be and why?

Perhaps Sal.  Sal is the one who comes to answer the invitation inviting the devil.  Sal is a mystery, even to me.  Is he, or isn’t he, the devil?

If The Summer That Melted Everything became a film, who would you like to play Sal and Autopsy and why would you choose them?  

I do hope for the novel to one day be translated to the screen, and I have thought of who I would like to play the characters.  As far as who would play Sal, I think that would probably be a new-comer due to the character’s age of thirteen.  For Autopsy, it’d have to someone who is physically built like him.  Someone tall and thin, lanky in many ways.  I don’t think anyone can replace the images of these characters in my head, but one day I think I’ll see an actor and think that he could at least step into Autopsy’s shoes.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

I like reading Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson, Donna Tartt, Toni Morrison, and the poet James Wright, who is from my land of Ohio.  I don’t have any one particular genre I read, or don’t read.  As long as it’s a good story, it’s worth turning the page for.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that The Summer That Melted Everything should be their next read, what would you say?

Fifteen words?  Let’s see…how about I say what Shelf Awareness said about the novel.  It’s exactly fifteen words:

The Summer that Melted Everything swells with the darkness that lurks in the human heart.”

And so, perhaps that will be enough to persuade a reader to take a chance on one summer that does indeed melt everything.

Thank you so much for your time, Tiffany, in answering my questions.

About Tiffany McDaniel

tiffany

Tiffany McDaniel is an Ohio native whose writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. Also a poet and artist, she is the winner of The Guardian’s 2016 “Not-the-Booker Prize” for her debut novel, The Summer that Melted Everything. The novel was also a Goodreads Choice Award double nominee in both fiction and debut categories, is a current nominee for the Lillian Smith Book Award, and a finalist for the Ohioana Literary Award and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award for Outstanding Debut.

You can find out more about Tiffany and The Summer That Melted Everything on her website.

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