This week I was lucky to have the opportunity to read and review the soon to be released The Summer That Melted Everything, which I absolutely adored. The author, Tiffany McDaniel was kind enough to answer some questions regarding her first published release and her work. Enjoy the Q & A!
The Summer That Melted Everything will be available July 26, 2016.
1. Congratulations on your debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything. Can you give a quick summary of the story for those who are not yet familiar with it?
First off, thank you for the congratulations. I appreciate that. The story is about eighty-four year old Fielding Bliss looking back on the summer of 1984 when he was thirteen-years-old. It was the summer his father had invited the devil to their town. The one come to answer the invitation is a thirteen-year- old boy dressed in overalls and asking for ice cream. The boy arrives with the start of a hell-hot heat wave. This is the story of what melted that summer in that heat. It’s the story of how everything can change during the course of one moment too long in the sun.
2. What inspired you to write this story?
I always say I’m inspired by the characters themselves. To me, my characters feel like real people. That in their ghost-like presence they hover around me as I type. Telling me their story. I’m inspired by them to write the best beginning, middle, and end of a story I can. I owe that to the characters. I owe that to the readers.
3. There are some unique names in the book, with the town of Breathed and Autopsy Bliss being the standouts for me. What influenced the names you chose?
I was told my maternal grandfather was born in Breathitt County in Kentucky. The first novel I ever wrote was inspired by my mother’s life growing up in southern Ohio, so to honor my grandfather I had used Breathitt in that first novel, changing the spelling to Breathed so as not to be confused with the Kentucky region. Breathed ended up being a character itself, and as of date the town has made an appearance in all of my novels. As far as the other names like Autopsy—because my characters feel so real to me, I feel like these are their names long before I type them on the page. One day I had seen the word Autopsy and it stuck in my head. I think this was in essence a hint from Autopsy himself about his true name. At first, I didn’t yet know how important a meaning the name would come to represent throughout the course of the novel. But once I looked up the definition of what the word means and its origins, it became clear that Autopsy’s name would become a major theme.
4. The character of Sal is a fascinating one. Was the depiction of Sal clear in your mind or did it develop and change during the writing process?
Sal is one of those characters that appeared so clear to me in my mind in his overalls and with those bruises on his flesh. He evolved more as I went along, but initially, I’d say he was the clearest of the characters. There was something about him already so defined in the early stages of the novel. Through that, he really came to define those around him as well.
5. You have a very creative background in poetry, art, and screenwriting. What were some of the challenges of writing your first novel? What has been most rewarding?
While The Summer that Melted Everything is my debut and my first published novel, it’s actually the fifth or sixth novel I’ve written. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen years old. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine, so it was eleven years of rejection and fear I’d never get published. For me, writing is the easy part. Getting published has proved to be the challenge. In the struggle, I honestly never believed I would be published. I know I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am now about to see one of my books on the shelf for the first time. Publishing moves at a snail’s pace, unfortunately, so the book has been moving through the publishing house for two years, so with all the years added up, it will have been thirteen years waiting to see a book on the shelf, which is going to be the most rewarding part of the experience for sure. July 26th will be a very special day. I’ve said I just might sprout wings, or at the very least sprout them in my mind…
6. What is your writing process like?
I never outline or pre-plan the direction of the story. The story evolves with each new word and page I type that work day. For me this is the best process to work. Before, if I’ve happened to write an idea down, the idea would fester and rot. It just loses its essence to me. I also don’t like to let a story sit too long. I like to get through the beginning, middle, and end as quick as I can, because there’s a danger of losing the intensity of the story if it’s left too long. I can let it sit during drafting stages, but when initially writing the story, I really have to stay focused and give the book a solid foundation on which to build.
7. What are you hoping people will take away from your book?
One of the things I’ve said before is that I hope they take away that we are only as godly as the love we give. We are only as devilish as the hate we spread.
8. I can imagine this is a busy time for you, but I have to ask, are there more books on the way? 🙂
I have eight completed novels. I’m currently working on my ninth. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s a story about a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, flee across the Atlantic Ocean and end up in my land of Ohio. Up in the secluded hills of southern Ohio, the siblings create their own camp of judgement where they serve as both the guards and the prisoners. Theirs is a story of surviving guilt. More than that, it’s about surviving love and the sins created from that very thing.
9. For anyone interested in exploring more of your work, where can they find your other projects?
I don’t have social media. My only online presence being my author website: www.tiffanymcdaniel.com
Readers can always connect with me direct through my website. They can also see some of my paintings up on the site. The paintings are of characters and scenes from The Summer that Melted Everything. Hopefully the art will help add another layer to the reading experience for readers.
10. Is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
I would like to say to readers that without you, 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. If in the end, a reader can close my book and say, “Hey, that’s a pretty good story. I’m really glad I read it,” then I’ve done good by that reader.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about your work. Best of luck with the upcoming release of The Summer That Melted Everything!
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.
Author and painting photos courtesy of http://www.tiffanymcdaniel.com.