Interview with Tiffany McDaniel

Please summarize The Summer that Melted Everything in 20 words or less.

A man invites the devil to town. The one come to answer the invitation is a thirteen-year-old boy.

What inspired you to write this book?

The Summer that Melted Everything began its life as a title. It was one of those Ohio summer evenings that I just felt like I was melting. When beginning a new novel, I do always start with the title, with no real plan for what the story is going to be. Once I have the title, I write the first line always. Together the title and the first line determine the entire course of the story for me. In this case, not planning on writing about the devil, the first line really determined I would. I never do an outline or synopsis so the story is always created that moment I’m sitting in front of the computer. For me it’s not so much as being inspired by a particular thing outside of the story, but really just allowing the story to naturally flow without being forced into a specific direction. And once the foundation of the story is built, I’m inspired by the characters themselves. To do right by them and really let their voices be heard.

The story is really very sad. As a writer, did you ever want to stop and turn away from the world you created?

I’ve always said I’m drawn to the crash, not the landing. I want to explore the wreckage, the broken fragments, the things that which were once whole and are now scattered upon the ground. I never have that urge to stop or turn away because to me these moments that test us emotionally are moments we’re closest to the truth of our own infinite selves.

Could you share a favorite quote from the book? Why is it your favorite?

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

This paragraph opens the book and I think that’s why it’s one of my favorite quotes. It’s also the first part I wrote in the novel. It’s really the beginning of everything.

Is the devil really just other people?

I think this is a great question readers themselves will ask after reading the novel. And after having read the novel, readers will really be able to answer this. I don’t want to give any spoilers away at this point, so I’ll just redirect the answer by saying you learn very early on in the novel that the devil we’re dealing with in this story is not the stereotypical devil found in the biblical narrative. Gone is the beastly appearance of horns and serpent scales and all that we’ve grown accustomed to in thinking about the devil. As I say in the novel, “Sometimes it’s the flower’s turn to own the name.” And in this town of wildflowers, the fields are not left in want.

Who’s your favorite character in Summer?

I don’t know if I’d say my favorite character all around. But one of my favorite characters to write was Grand who is Fielding’s brother. Though Grand’s personal battle is specific to him, his struggle for true self and identity is universal. I think also because we see Grand through Fielding’s eyes, we fall in love with Grand just as Fielding has. Grand is the older brother we all want to have. That heroic, selfless human being, who in the end proves himself in more ways than one. If Grand is anything, he is a billion blurry lights become a galaxy of clear illumination, and how can a character like that not be someone to hold dear.

Tell us about your publishing journey? What’s next for you?

While The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, it’s not the first novel I’ve written. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen years old. I didn’t get a publishing deal until I was twenty-nine. Some authors publish much sooner than that, others take longer still. What’s true in most cases is that the road to publication is oftentimes a very long, difficult journey. It’s full of rejection, and even still with a novel coming out, you face rejection with subsequent novels and their publication. It’s never easy, but what’s next for me is to just continue writing. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is titled, When Lions Stood as Men. It’s a novel I really hold dear as the subject matter demands that. It’s about a brother and sister and their guilt of surviving the Holocaust. But more than that it’s a story about this brother and sister surviving each other and surviving a love that both defines and determines the course of their entire lives.

The Summer that Melted Everything is the novel to introduce my writing style to readers, but When Lions Stood as Men is the novel that’s going to solidify my style and genre as a writer and I can’t wait for these characters and their stories to be heard. That’s what it all boils down to. Hoping readers hear and find me. Readers have all the power. They’re the ones who give writers like me a career because they buy the book and read it. And that’s all I hope. That folks read what I’ve written and in the end close the book and say, “Hey, that’s a pretty good story. I’m really glad I read it.”

Readers can find out more about Tiffany at http://www.tiffanymcdaniel.com

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