This time I am throwing open ‘Meet The Authors’ to Tiffany McDaniel, the successful debut novelist behind the hugely popular ‘The Summer That Melted Everything’.
The book has been receiving regular rave ratings and reviews on both sides of the Atlantic and across just about every recognised and respected discussion channel used by the book blogging masses.
It was therefore something of a surprise to hear from Tiffany that ‘The Summer That Melted Everything’ had been nominated for the 2016 “Not The Booker Prize” awards, as hosted by the UK newspaper, The Guardian.
I chatted with Tiffany and I’ll let you make your own mind up about this rather strange nomination.
Hi! I’m TIFFANY McDANIEL
An Ohio native, my writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land I know. I am also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and artist.
The Summer that Melted Everything is my debut novel.
Catch up with all my latest news on my website
There is also a You Tube promo video, put together by myself and my friends, to help raise awareness of the book
‘THE SUMMER THAT MELTED EVERYTHING‘
Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heat wave scorched Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.
Sal seems to appear out of nowhere – a bruised and tattered thirteen-year-old boy claiming to be the devil himself answering an invitation. Fielding Bliss, the son of a local prosecutor, brings him home where he’s welcomed into the Bliss family, assuming he’s a runaway from a nearby farm town.
When word spreads that the devil has come to Breathed, not everyone is happy to welcome this self-proclaimed fallen angel. Murmurs follow him and tensions rise, along with the temperatures as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents start to occur, riled by the feverish heat, some in the town start to believe that Sal is exactly who he claims to be. While the Bliss family wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
Clicking on the book’s cover image will link you directly to its Amazon ‘buy’ page.
Follow this link if you want to check out a few additional ‘First Lines’
“LET’S TALK WRITING”
Could you briefly describe your book?
‘The Summer that Melted Everything’ is about an eighty-four-year-old man named Fielding Bliss, who is looking back on his life during one summer in 1984 when he was thirteen-years-old and his father, Autopsy Bliss, invited the devil to their small town called Breathed, Ohio. Who answers the invitation ends up being a boy in overalls and bruises. This boy’s arrival comes the first day of a hell-hot heat-wave that carries through the entire course of the summer. This is not just a story about the heat, but a story of everything that melted in that heat. Family, friendships, innocence, and even lives. Puddles of all of these things melted down. That is what this story is. A man trying to survive ferrying these puddles, which to him have become oceans he must cross to once again find the bliss of his name.
Is your book based on personal experiences?
While the story itself is not inspired by personal experience, the landscape certainly is. The story takes place in the fictional town of Breathed, Ohio, which is a landscape very much inspired by my childhood summers and school year weekends spent in southern Ohio, where the hills roll, the creek strides in its own good time, and the roads are dirt laid and grass lined. That hilly acreage, front porch lifestyle, and southern twang has shaped me as a writer. Having spent my childhood summers down-home was like being one of the lizards crawling the screen door, one of the bullfrogs by the creek edge, one of the tall blades of grass in the field. Those memories of that place are in the book itself. In the way the fireflies fly, to the way the creek ripples at the dive of a gar. That southern culture and beauty has been the fuel to the explosion that is my craft.
Could you share a favorite quote from the book? Why is it your favorite?
“The heat came with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat had not. It should’ve been expected, though. Heat is, after all, the devil’s name, and when’s the last time you left home without yours?” This paragraph opens the book and I think that’s why it’s one of my favorite quotes. These are also the first lines I wrote in the novel. It’s really the beginning of everything.
If the events in ‘The Summer that Melted Everything’ took place in today, do you think things would have ended differently for the community and those involved?
Times may change but people are in essence the same. I think if this were to happen now in 2016, and not 1984, only the coverage would have been different. Splashed all over social media, commented on by everyone around the world. Captured by cell-phones and journeyed to YouTube for the masses. But the story itself and its ending, for the most part, transcends time periods and becomes a sort of universal ending for all times because it explores those basic human emotions that we have always had, and always will have.
Did you choose 1984 as your time frame because of the period’s lack of general understanding or sympathy about AIDS?
When I was thinking of what time period the novel was going to take place in, I knew it would be the 1980s because (and maybe this is a stereotype) but when I think about the 80s I think of neon colors, big hair, and suntans. It’s almost like a decade long summer. I was born in 1985, so I can’t attest to whether this is true of the decade and can only go on how music and TV/movies from the time make me feel about life then. Having decided on the 1980s, I knew I had also unintentionally decided on writing about AIDS because, whether we like or not, the 1980s and AIDS are irrevocably linked. It was the moment that changed not just how we have sex, but how we understand sex, and even in some cases, fear it. This fear is essential to the novel. And the earlier you are in a new disease, the more fear there is going to be. So 1984 was early enough for the disease to still not be understood and still early enough to have that innocent 80s summer mentality.
The story is really very sad. As a writer, did you ever want to stop and turn away from the world you created?
I’ve always said I’m drawn to the crash, not the landing. I want to explore the wreckage, the broken fragments, the things that which were once whole and are now scattered upon the ground. I never have that urge to stop or turn away because to me these moments that test us emotionally are moments we’re closest to the truth of our own infinite selves. I would also be doing a disservice to the characters if I were to turn away from them and their story.
Who’s your favorite character in ‘The Summer That Melted Everything’?
I don’t know if I’d say my favorite character all around. But one of my favorite characters to write was Grand who is Fielding’s brother. Though Grand’s personal battle is specific to him, his struggle for true self and identity is universal. I think also because we see Grand through Fielding’s eyes, we fall in love with Grand just as Fielding has. Grand is the older brother we all want to have. That heroic, selfless human being, who in the end proves himself in more ways than one. If Grand is anything, he is a billion blurry lights become a galaxy of clear illumination, and how can a character like that not be someone to hold dear?
When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?
Writing is the first thing I remember doing as a child outside of any external influence or direction. As a child I was driven by that internal gear, and as I got older I realized I was writing story. I wouldn’t realize writing was a profession I could have until much older, when I was in middle school and the guidance counselor came to my class to talk to us about what we wanted to be when we got older. Writing was just so wonderful to me that I didn’t think I could make a life out of it. My parents had jobs, very hard jobs that made them tired and not a lot of money. So I thought that’s what I would have to do. Have a job I didn’t like. Though it took me eleven long, hard years to get a publishing contract, realizing I could have writing as a career, was like being told I could pocket all the stars in the night sky and have light with me forever. Writing is my compass. My lighthouse, safely guiding my ship to shore. I’m lost without it.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
I don’t. I like the natural flow of allowing the characters and scenes to come out on their own. That way I’m not putting a hook in the fish and yanking, so to speak. I’m just opening the door between myself and the sea and letting the fish swim in on its own good time.
Where do your ideas come from?
From the elements that make me. Somewhere in the thread of my DNA and my soul, the ideas exist. I’m not really sure where else to say they come from. I just know it’s out of reach, existing as fragile as a cloud, as strong as steel.
Do you work to an outline?
I never outline or pre-plan the story. What you read on the page is what was in my head that moment I sat in front of the laptop, typing away. I just see where the idea takes me. Let the cave envelope me in darkness. Let the stars shine on me with light.
What’s the best and easiest part about writing?
Falling in love with my characters.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
To never give up. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine. So it was eleven years of rejection and fear I’d never be published. It’s a hard journey to get a foot in the publishing door. Especially when you write literary fiction, like I do. Publishers don’t want to take risks on literary fiction because it could be a financial loss as it’s not as lucrative as say genre or commercial fiction. I really believed I’d never get published. I know I’m so fortunate, about to see my book on the shelf for the first time. I feel for those writers still on the journey to publication. To them I say never, ever give up. Never turn your back on your dreams. You owe it to yourself to stay the course. It will happen for you. You will get that rocket ship ride into the stars one day. Believe it.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
I love gardening. I hope to have my own greenhouse one day containing its own special jungle I can stalk like a jaguar. I find baking relaxing. The mixing of flour and sugar and butter. The simplicity of creating something for others to enjoy. I love reading. Taking that story inside me and being a part of someone else’s creativity. That’s the beauty of story. Everyone is invited to love it. It’s in all of us. As an individual, and as the whole human race.
Do you have a new book in the works? If so can we have a clue of what it’s about?
I have eight other novels completed. Currently I’m working on my ninth novel. The novel I hope to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s a story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, cross the Atlantic Ocean, and end up in Ohio of all places. Struggling with the guilt of surviving the Holocaust, they create their own sort of camp where they punish themselves, realizing in the end it was each other they truly had to survive.
Do you have anything you would like to say to readers?
That you readers have all the power. It’s not the agents or the editors or the publishing houses as a whole that determine a writer’s career. It’s the readers. Without readers buying books, there are no novelists to be had. Readers give meaning to an author’s words. So if you like a book, tell everyone you know. Be that book’s champion because if you do, you’re being a champion for the author herself. My only hope is that readers like what I’ve written. That they can count on me to deliver a story that is worth both their time and their hard-earned money. Nothing would make me happier than to know a reader has finished one of my books with the pleasure of having read it. That’s what I strive for as an author. To be someone’s favorite author as so many authors have been mine.