When the author of this amazing book, Tiffany McDaniels, reached out to me and asked if I could do a post about her book being released as a paperback, I was so humbled and more than elated!! If you haven’t read this fabulous book, I HIGHLY recommend it! It was in my top 10 books last year. Now that it is being released on paperback tomorrow, I think I am buying copies for ALL of my friends and family so I can share this wonderful story.
I also had the great pleasure of interviewing Tiffany. She is so down to Earth, and also does not realize just how talented she really is. Read below to find out what she does when she has writer’s block, and her other talented passion: art.
The devil comes to Ohio in Tiffany McDaniel’s breathtaking and heartbreaking literary debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything.
*Winner of The Guardian’s 2016 “Not the Booker” Prize
*Goodreads Choice Award nominee for “Best Fiction” and “Best Debut”
“A wonderfully original, profoundly unsettling, deeply moving novel that delivers both the shock of fully realized reality and the deep resonance of parable…A remarkable debut.”
―Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
“A haunting Appalachian Gothic novel that calls into question the nature of good and evil.” ―Akron Beacon Journal
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 temperature as an unbearable heat wave rolls into town right along with him. As strange accidents sta
rt 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 wrestle with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
1. What inspired you to write The Summer that Melted Everything?
The novel started first as a title. It was one of those Ohio summers that was so hot, I felt like I was melting into a puddle of myself on the green grass. I always start writing a new novel with two things: the title and the first line. Once I have these two things, it’s the characters that really inspire me. They inspire me to write their truths to the best of my ability.
2. I read that it only took you a month to write, did you do any research for the book beforehand?
I have eight completed novels and on average it does take a month to lay the bones of the story down. That can sound like a quick process, but I don’t like for a story to sit for too long. If it does sit for too long, it begins to lose its essence. Writing is like building a body in many ways. You lay the bones down, and then add your layers of muscle, tissue, and skin. These other layers can take much longer. And the copy-editing stage in particular is really where you make sure everything is as it should be. As far as research, I don’t like to do too much research with a novel, because I don’t want it weighed down with fact. I only do enough research to get a grasp of the time period. The thing about me and time period is I want the story to be fluid. I don’t want it to feel as if it’s cemented in any one time period, but that it can in fact take place at any time and in any decade.
3. The characterization in the book is so strong. Did you have a favorite character while you were writing? Or, did you have a character you could identify with?
It’s hard to say my favorite character, because I love them all. But one of my favorite characters to write was Grand. He has that presence on the page that makes him a character that is hard not to fall in love with. In many ways, Grand represents that universal struggle of identity. I’ve always wanted an older brother, so Grand and Fielding’s relationship in particular was a relationship I really enjoyed exploring.
4. This is a multiple layered question about your artwork on your website: On your website, there are watercolors that you drew (fabulous, by the way). Is art a passion of yours?
First off, thanks so much for the lovely compliment. Art is a passion. I struggle to call myself an artist because my work pales in comparison to the artists I love, but art is something that I need in my life and certainly something that allows me to express story without words. It’s important to keep the creative wheel spinning, and art is just another way for me to do that.
5. How long have you been painting?
When I was a kid and I would write stories, I would always illustrate them. I’d also illustrate my poetry. I started with crayons, as most kids do, and then moved into colored pencils, markers, graphite, charcoal, and eventually found my way to painting years back. It’s the movement of the brush over a canvas that I really enjoy. The fluidity of the medium is something that proves to be its own sort of therapy.
6. Have you sold any of your paintings? If someone were interested in purchasing a painting of yours, should they just contact you?
You are definitely complimenting me far too much with this question. I haven’t put any of my paintings up for sale. I did gift a painting to each of the authors who so kindly read my novel and blurbed it before it was published. I painted them either a character or a setting from the novel, got it framed and mailed it out as a thank you from me to them for their blurb. As far as if anyone is interested in my paintings, they can always contact me through my website. I personally respond to every email I get.
7. Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
I’m so superstitious, that I don’t even say those words. And…I’m knocking on wood right now. I will say that oftentimes it’s our own words that push us forward. Reading what we’ve already written, and in that realizing we’ve done it once, we can certainly do it again.
8. What do you enjoy doing while not writing (or painting)?
I love plants and nature, so gardening is something that I really enjoy. I also like baking, watching movies, and spending time with all the animals in my life.
9. Tell me about your next project. Do you have one in the works? Any hint as to what it’s about?
To answer this question, I’ll have to first say that The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, but not my first novel written. It took me eleven long years to get published, and The Summer that Melted Everything is my fifth or sixth novel written. The novel I’m hoping to publish next is indeed that very first novel I wrote fourteen years ago when I was eighteen. It’s titled, The Chaos We’ve Come From and it’s a story that is inspired by my mother’s coming-of-age in southern Ohio, in those foothills of the Appalachians, from the 1950s to the death of her father in the early 1970s. It feels like a good time to return to these characters and to this story.
Thank you again to Tiffany McDaniel for stopping by. I am really looking forward to reading The Chaos We’ve Come From. Now, go buy The Summer that Melted Everything in paperback!
Tiffany McDaniel is an Ohio native whose writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. Also a poet and artist, she is the winner of The Guardian’s 2016 “Not-the-Booker Prize” for her debut novel, The Summer that Melted Everything. The novel was also a Goodreads Choice Award double nominee in both fiction and debut categories, is a current nominee for the Lillian Smith Book Award, and a finalist for the Ohioana Literary Award and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award for Outstanding Debut.