Author Interview: The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

Hey Bookworms!

We've been hiatus for a very long time but I'm trying to get us back on track. 

And with that, I'd like to feature Tiffany McDaniel's novel THAT SUMMER THAT MELTED EVERYTHING! This is Tiffany's debut novel and we got a chance to ask her a couple of questions! To know more about the book and the Q&A, read on.... Happy reading!

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 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 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. 

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

The Summer that Melted Everything is inventive and provocative…a meaty and relentlessly good story.” ―

Sometimes a book comes along that is so good that it defies all descriptions, but I'll give it a shot anyway: Tiffany McDaniel's astounding and heartbreaking The Summer That Melted Everything reads as if Carson McCullers and Shirley Jackson got together with Nathaniel Hawthorne in some celestial backwater and decided to write the first truly great gothic coming-of-age novel of the twenty-first century.” ―Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time

A wondrous debut of a novel. Imagine To Kill a Mockingbird, seen through the eyes of Neil Gaiman. McDaniel’s prose is rich and magical, full of passages of exquisite, strange beauty that ache with bitter truths and old sorrows. You'll not read anything else like it.” ―James Sie, author of Still Life Las Vegas

Q: Tell me more about the book, yourself and the journey on how you wrote about TStME.

A: I’m an Ohio poet and novelist.  The Summer that Melted Everything is my debut novel.  It is about a man who one day puts an invitation in the newspaper, inviting the devil to town.  A boy, claiming to be the devil, answers the invitation, only this boy is not your stereotypical devil of red flesh and horns.  This so-called devil’s arrival coincides with the start of a heat-wave that threatens to destroy the town’s very sanity.  As the summer unfolds, the boy’s presence has tragic consequences on the town and everyone in it.  Who is the real devil?  That is a question The Summer that Melted Everything sets out to answer.  To talk a little about my journey to publication, I should say that while The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, it’s actually my fifth or sixth novel written.  I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen, and wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything.  It was a long eleven-year journey to publication, full of rejection and perseverance.  But the struggle to get published has made me the author I am today.  An author who knows the value of perseverance and the value of each and every reader.

Q: How did you first write about Fielding's story?

The novel started first as a title.  It was one of those hot Ohio summers that I felt like I was melting.  Out of true heat, the title was born.  When I start writing a new novel, I start with the title and the first line.  These two things lead the entire rest of the story.  I never know how a story will end because I don’t outline or plan the story ahead.  I like for the story to evolve with each new word and page that I write.

Q: What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching while writing the book?

I don’t do a lot of research when writing a novel because I don’t want the story weighed down with too much fact.  My research with this novel was getting a basic understanding of the culture of the 1980s, while also understanding about the emergence of AIDS was impacting the nation.   With time periods, I don’t want to ground the story too much.  I want the story to be very fluid and to feel as if it can take place at any point in time.

Q: How do you select the names of your characters?

I try to add subtle meaning to the characters with names.  Some examples:

In the case of Autopsy, the patriarch of the family, his name has a bigger meaning for looking at the entire book as a body itself, on a cold slab, about to be cut open and examined. Fielding’s telling of the story is in essence one big autopsy of that summer and his life.

Another example of a character with an unusual name is Elohim.  Elohim is used for the name of God in the Hebrew bible.  So we have a character who is called god and another character who is called devil, and yet the one called god does not act godly, and the one called devil does not act devilish.   It’s about taking these ideas and turning them on their heads.  I could go on about the names, but I fear that would prove an essay-length answer, so I’ll leave it by saying, each name used serves a purpose to the story.
Q: Which readers would this book appeal to?

I would hope that it would appeal to lots of readers of various different genres from mystery to literary fiction.  It will also appeal to those readers who have an appetite for Midwestern literature.

Q: Why did you choose Ohio?

I’m an Ohio native.  The fictional town in the novel, Breathed, Ohio, is based on my childhood summers and school-year weekends spent in southern Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachians and on the hilly acreage of my father’s family farm.  Ohio is a landscape that has shaped me as an author and so far, for all the eight novels I have completed, Breathed, Ohio is the setting for them all.
Q: Any excerpts available?

Yes, there is an excerpt available from the publisher's site here.

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.

To learn more about the novel, feel free to visit her website.
Here is the novel's Goodreads page.
And here is the novel's Amazon page.

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