A few weeks ago I posted my book review for The Summer That Melted Everything on my blog. In case you missed it, you can read my full review here → Book Review: The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel.
Here is an excerpt of my review:
This book is a powerful piece of fiction (…) McDaniel is dauntless when it comes to her writing, it seems nothing is off limits. This book reminded me of a mix of two classic books; I am reminded of the struggle of good over evil (racism) in To Kill a Mockingbird crossed with the mob mentality we see in The Crucible. McDaniel’s writing is unlike any other author I’ve ever read before. It is profound, raw, and beautifully lyrical. With The Summer That Melted Everything, she has crafted an important parable, a story that is meant to teach an important lesson (…) this book was meant to be read.
In my review, I also mentioned that this is one of my favorite reads of 2016. I was given the opportunity to ask the author, Tiffany McDaniel, a few questions and am excited to be able to share her answers with you today…
About the Author:
An Ohio native, Tiffany McDaniel’s writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. She is also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and artist. The Summer that Melted Everything is her debut novel.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you have any writing habits or quirks?
I keep a pretty simple writing process. I never outline or plan the story beforehand. I like for the characters and the plot to evolve with each new word and page I write. Doing it this way I’m often surprised myself how the story turns out and who the characters ultimately become. For me, planning the story can strip it of its essence and I like for the story to preserve its natural flow without being driven by a specific direction or plan. I don’t have any habits or quirks. I just sit there and type and hope to have something that delivers the truth of the characters by the end of that work day.
Where can we find you when you are not writing?
I wish I could say I wrestle alligators when I’m not writing, or something equally exciting, but you’re more likely to find me in the garden or with flour and butter on my hands by the stove baking something that may or may not turn out. I also love film, reading, and creating art whether it be painting or drawing.
The Summer that Melted Everything is set in the fictional town of Breathed, Ohio. What made you choose Ohio to be the setting of this story?
I was born and raised in Ohio. I’d spend my childhood summers and school-year weekends down-home we call it, in southern Ohio where the hills roll and the creek strides. Southern Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachians, was magical to me as a kid with its twang and hilly acreage. I’d stand on the creek edge and watch the gars go swimming by, hear the bull-frogs come night fall, and step out into the hill fog in the morning. It was a land and a culture that naturally found its way into my writing. I think every author is shaped by the land they know and I’ve been shaped by the hills and by the hollers.
What inspired you to write a book that touches on so many “hard topics”? Are there any topics that are off limits in your writing?
I never set out to write about racism, homophobia, and the other topics tackled in the book. These were things that evolved naturally as the characters and the story developed. I’ve found with my writing I do tend to write about tough issues we face in our lives and in this world. To answer the second part of your question, there are no topics that are off-limits for me. I think when you start to place boundaries in your writing you’re limiting yourself. As a writer you have to be brave and part of that bravery is writing about things that make us think and question not just who we are but who we want to be.
I adored all of the character’s names in this book; Autopsy, Fielding, Grand, Fedelia, Dresden… just to name a few. How did you select these names? What came first, the character or the name? Are the character’s names a reflection of the characters themselves?
The characters tend to come before their name. I always say the characters know their name before I do. I get hints from the characters and sometimes these hints come down to just seeing a particular word that day, as was the case with Autopsy’s name. I had seen the word autopsy that day. We all know the meaning of the word. The dead body on the cold slab about to be examined. But when I looked up its definition and got a more definite sense of its Greek origin I saw that it means to see for oneself. I knew then that that was Autopsy’s true name. I do think the names are a reflection of character, especially in the cases of Sal, Grand, Autopsy, and Elohim, which is a name used for God in the Hebrew bible. Using a name as an extension of the character is a great way to add that subtle touch to who they are.
I see that you are scheduled to appear at the Books by the Banks book festival that takes place in Cincinnati, Ohio in October! Do you have any other book events lined up?
I’m really excited to attend Books by the Banks this coming October 15th. I’ll be there from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. so come out and see me. I’ll be signing the first edition, first print run of the book and it’ll be great to meet readers. It will be my first book festival. As far as other events lined up, I’m hoping I get selected to attend Buckeye Book Fair up in Wooster, Ohio come November. The publisher isn’t sending me on a book tour, but I just had my first book signing at a local independent store and I’ll be looking forward to adding more signing stops and events in the future.
Do you have another book in the works? If so, can you tell us about it and when we can expect it to come out?
I have eight completed novels. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen and wouldn’t get a publishing contract for The Summer that Melted Everything, which is my fifth or sixth novel, until I was twenty-nine. It was eleven years of rejection and perseverance and this gave me the determination to write more books. I don’t know yet when one of the other novels will get published. The publisher likes to see how well the first book does in book sales before considering a second book, so hopefully The Summer that Melted Everything does good enough that I get a chance at another book. The novel I am hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is titled When Lions Stood as Men. It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, cross the Atlantic Ocean, and end up in my land of Ohio. Struggling with the guilt of surviving the Holocaust, they create their own camp of judgment up in the hills of Ohio. Being both the guards and the prisoners, they punish themselves not only for surviving, but for the sins they know they cannot help but commit.
What is your spirit animal?
When I was a kid I used to draw these creatures that were made up of different animals. It would be part fish, part bird, part reptile. Perhaps these were my spirit animals I was drawing. Something that can fly, swim, run the land. We are all complex in spirit and in that complexity we connect with all creatures. Some creatures more than others, but in the great scheme of things we find our spirits have threads to the whole universe and all the creation within it.
What would you like to be written on your tombstone?
Perhaps the poet in me would say:
I claim my life, my decisions, my rage, and my spirit. I claim it all and like water I am moved against the cool, forgiving sky to the immortality that happens as we divide from flesh and bone to the other side. May I find peace and quiet in the nearest field given to the tall grass and to the flowers and to the trees I hope my soul is worthy of keeping company with for all the rest of this infinite time.
About the Book:
Author: Tiffany McDaniel
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (July 26, 2016)
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.