Tiffany McDaniel’s stunning debut novel, The Summer that Melted Everything, is everything dark and beautiful and scorching. When Fielding Bliss was a boy of 13, the Devil came to visit Breathed, OH. The tragedy left in his wake is a reminder that evil doesn’t walk among us, it’s inside of each and every one of us.
In the vein of writers like Stephan King, Summer is a charmed novel that will leave you guessing what’s real and what isn’t. Part psychological, part magical realism, Summer is infused with that creep factor that is the uncanny. McDaniel is a seriously gifted storyteller and the proof is in the pages. Full of quirky characters and colloquialism, Summer is a perfect blend of the odd and the profound.
We all have those things that keep us up in the night, and reading Summer is like taking a slice of childhood memory and turning it over in our hands to see inside the dark parts that are usually hidden from everybody else. Simply reading it is a strange form of catharsis even though it is fiction at its core (indeed, it may be more therapeutic because of it). I was enchanted.
Tiffany McDaniel is a native of Ohio, and is, among other things, a poet, a playwright, and an artist. You can find more about her at her website at http://www.tiffanymcdaniel.com/ . ***She is currently holding a giveaway to coincide with her release date on July 25, 2016***. Pre-order the hardcover edition for eligibility. Prizes include audiobook editions of The Summer that Melted Everything, limited edition prints of a McDaniel original artwork, and more! You can find the rules and regulations here: http://www.tiffanymcdaniel.com/the-contest/
McDaniel was kind enough to allow us a brief interview, so without further ado…Tiffany McDaniel.
Each chapter begins with a quote from Milton’s Paradise Lost, was it a defining source for The Summer that Melted Everything? Where else did you find your muse?
I first read Paradise Lost when I was in college. I was immediately drawn to it because of that eternal battle of good v. evil. The same battle that is found in The Summer that Melted Everything, which is why when I was thinking of my chapter titles I thought of only Paradise Lost. Both Milton’s epic poem and my novel are exploring that of the fallen angel, but more so, that of the fallen man. Bringing that biblical story of Satan’s undoing and placing it in the realm of men and women who are in essence trying to stay in their own bliss and paradise. I only hope I made Milton proud by including his beautiful lines in my novel.
Another beautiful work I mention in The Summer that Melted Everything is 1984 by George Orwell. My novel takes place during a summer in 1984, and without giving spoilers away, you’ll learn in the end of the novel why 1984 the novel and the year are tied together in this small town and small community trying to understand how so much can melt during the course of one hot summer.
Who are the writers that inspire you? Could you give us a short list of your favorite books?
I grew up on R.L. Stine and didn’t really read the literary heavyweights until later, so I can’t say a particular writer inspired me because I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid and writing a lot. But as far as some of my favorite authors and books go there is Shirley Jackson. I love all her work especially her short story classic “The Lottery” and her novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Donna Tartt’s novels The Little Friend and The Secret History. I love Ray Bradbury’s complete collection, but especially Dandelion Wine. I want to be buried with that novel. Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day is just lovely. Agatha Christie is an author I always depend on to make me feel better. She just writes those great cozy mysteries. I read poets of all sorts, but one of my favorite poets is James Wright whose collection, Above the River, is more beautiful than I can say.
The Summer that Melted Everything is your debut novel, which is an incredible accomplishment. What would you say was the most difficult aspect of getting published, and what advice do you have to give for aspiring writers?
I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I didn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine. And it wasn’t a contract for that first novel, but for The Summer that Melted Everything that, while it is my first published novel, is actually my fifth or sixth novel written. It is only the second novel to be submitted to editors though, aside from my first novel written. Getting published is incredibly hard. Starting out as that naïve eighteen year old I had no idea I had ahead of me eleven years of rejection and heartache. So many times I just wanted to give up because there’s only so many times you can feel like you’re just a terrible writer and will never be published. But I didn’t give up and that’s the advice I have for aspiring writers. To never give up.
What does your writing process look like? Do you have any strange writing habits, or something that’s a little out of the ordinary?
I never write an outline or a synopsis. I always start a new novel with two things. The title and the first line. It’s that first line and title that really determine what the novel is going to be about. To date I have nine novels written, and when starting out with all of them I had no idea what they were going to be about or what characters would come to call the novel home. Really for me, I just sit in front of the laptop and type what’s in my head that day. I type this way until I get to the end and then I draft through and clean up and began to shape the story. To answer your second question, I wish I could say I light a hundred candles and hum the theme song to Jaws, but I don’t have any strange writing habits. It’s very boring really. I just sit and type.
As a librarian, I am often confronted with the idea of the printed book becoming obsolete. As a writer, what is your take?
First off, let me say that some of my favorite childhood moments were spent in the library. In my heaven there’s definitely a spot as there was in my town’s old library, where the shelves are metal and stacked full of dusty smelling books, in the back room by the open windows. So thank you for your service as a librarian. One of the most important careers, bringing free books to the people. And to answer your question: I love the printed book. I don’t read e-books or have an e-reader. To me reading a paper book is more of an experience, while with an e-book the screen to me can sometimes feel like a barrier. Like a concrete wall in the middle of a wildflower field. I just love the way the paper has absorbed the ink and the very tactile feeling of turning the page is more enjoyable for me than the hardness of e-book. With that being said, I know that in today’s world many people prefer to read an e-book. My feeling on that is always I would rather have people read something as an e-book than not read at all. There are people born today who will be so exposed to only technological devices that they may spend their entire life never reading an actual paper book. But I don’t think paper books will ever disappear. Books will always be one of those things that we can escape to when modern life or technology can seem overwhelming. Books connect us to the hands of our ancestors because they held the same things.
And just for fun, and in keeping with our foodie theme. If you could describe The Summer that Melted Everything using culinary adjectives, what would they be? What’s your flavor?
I would say it’s like the good ol’ fashioned American cheeseburger with the world’s hottest chili pepper under the bun. With a dish of chocolate ice cream on the side. Melted, because it is the summer that did indeed melt everything.
Sounds delicious to me!!