BETTY by Tiffany McDaniel

A lyrical novel about a young girl uncovering horrific truths about her own family in the rolling hills of the Appalachians.

BETTY is a novel that carries an emotional impact, telling the story of Betty’s upbringing in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Born to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight children growing up in a world of poverty and violence, both outside and, tragically, inside the home. In the midst of hardship emerges a resilient character who finds solace and an outlet in writing, recounting the horrors of her family’s past and present.

Inspired by the story of Tiffany McDaniel’s mother, BETTY is a personal and meaningful undertaking. It is a story of racism, abuse, poverty and amongst it all one of love and connection. This is not an easy read. It is devastating and absolutely heartbreaking. The beauty of the author’s writing is certainly there, for anyone who read The Summer that Melted Everything and fell in love with the writing style. But it is a much heavier read.

“I remember the fierce love and devotion as much as I remember the violence.” “our family tree grew with rotten, broken branches and fungus on the leaves.”

There are many wonderful aspects of this novel: the magic of storytelling, the fierce protagonist, and the folklore to list a few. The fact that it is filled with so much violence and trauma made it a difficult book to get through and one I was not eager to pick up. As a reader who does not at all gravitate towards heavy reads, it was especially challenging. I truly appreciate this novel and the very personal journey of writing a story based on family history.

*This novel was provided by the author via NetGalley for an honest review.

Author Interview: Tiffany McDaniel

IMG_2360This 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.

“AND SO WE BURN” Original watercolor by TIFFANY MCDANIEL

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. Continue reading “Author Interview: Tiffany McDaniel”

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

BLOG“The heat came with the devil.  It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat was 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?”

Fielding Bliss recounts the summer of 1984, the summer of a scorching heatwave and the year the devil came to the town of Breathed, Ohio.  It is Fielding’s father, Autopsy Bliss who puts forth the invitation in a newspaper for the devil to visit.

“If the devil was going to come, I expected to see the myth of him.  A demon with an asphalt shine.  He’d be fury.  A chill.  A bad cough. Cujo at the car window, a ticket at the Creepshow booth, a leap into the depth of night.”

The response is unexpected and comes in the form of a 13-year-old boy who appears out of nowhere, calling himself Sal (“from the beginning of Satan and the first step into Lucifer. Sa-L.”) and claiming to be the devil.  The boy is taken in by Fielding’s family, however as people discover just who Sal claims to be and disastrous occurrences start to take place, the tensions among the townspeople rise along with the heat.  The events of the summer of 1984 are ones that will have a longstanding impact on the town of Breathed and young Fielding Bliss.

“A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the beast, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower’s turn to own the name.”

The Summer That Melted Everything is a captivating novel with a brilliantly carried out premise and concept.  Through writing that is beautiful, poetic, and haunting, the author presents a story full of depth, nuance and unforgettable characters.  It is moving, heartbreaking, and incredibly compelling while tackling many important issues, such as racism, homophobia, and abuse.  Throughout, I found myself marking and re-reading numerous passages and sentences as each emotion and state of being is portrayed in a truly awe-inspiring way.  It is a novel that makes you feel and makes you pause, and one that will stick with me for some time to come.

*ARC provided by author through NetGalley for an unbiased review.  Publication date: July 26, 2016.