I’m delighted to be chatting to Tiffany McDaniel today. Her debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything is publishing in the US tomorrow and UK Kindle 1st August (hardcover 11th August).
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.
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise 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 was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
The novel started first as a title. It was one of those Ohio summers that I just felt like I was melting. I always start writing a new novel with two things. The title and the first line. These two things really determine the entire course of the novel for me. I never outline the story. What’s there on the page is what was in my head that moment I was sitting in front of the laptop. So starting a novel and working my way through it, I never know where it’s going or where it’ll end up. Writing for the first time, I’m just as surprised as the reader reading it for the first time.
Please tell us about the characters in your story.
Autopsy Bliss is a lawyer who is having a moral battle within himself. This battle leads him to invite the devil to town.
Stella Bliss is Autopsy’s wife. I say she’s like a curtain, never trailing far from the window of the house she’s afraid to leave because of the rain.
Grand Bliss is their oldest son and the one everyone pins their dreams to.
Fielding Bliss is the youngest son, and the one who first meets the devil and brings him into the fold of the family. The novel is narrated by eighty-four-year-old Fielding looking back on his life during that summer of 1984.
Sal is the boy who comes to answer the invitation. He arrives in overalls and with bruises. He is the one who changes everything.
If you could choose to be one of your characters Tiffany, which would you be?
Great question. I’d say I’d choose to be Sal. He’s a mystery even to me and I feel like being him would really be the key in the lock of the closed door.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most?
There were a few scenes I really enjoyed writing. One of them has to be the scene where Fielding and Sal meet for the first time. Fielding’s father, Autopsy Bliss, puts an invitation in the local newspaper inviting the devil to town and Sal is the one come to answer the invitation. How many times do you get to write about the devil coming to town? It was a pivotal moment in the novel because Sal’s appearance, his age, and gender really determined how this ‘devil’ character was going to be throughout the rest of the novel.
What inspires you to write?
I say I’m always inspired by the characters themselves. To tell their story as honestly as I can.
What do you think about movie adaptations Tiffany? Do you have a favourite?
I love film and I do hope The Summer that Melted Everything will eventually be translated to the screen. Sometimes the movie adaptation does the book justice. Sometimes they don’t. I always read the book first and then see the movie second, that way I don’t have the film in my mind as I’m reading and my imagination is free to roam without competing or being influenced by the images I’ve seen in the movie.
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of my favorites. So is Psycho based on Robert Bloch’s book.
What are you reading now?
I’m currently re-reading James Wright’s book of collected poems, Above the River. He’s such a fantastic poet, his verse so beautiful I want to make a home out of it. He’s an Ohio poet, from the land I know. I first read him in high school. The poem, Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry Ohio I’ve never forgotten. For all of you who haven’t read Wright, I urge you to.
Finally, what has been the hardest part of your writing journey so far?
The hardest part is getting published. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen and didn’t get a publishing contract for The Summer that Melted Everything until I was twenty-nine. So it was eleven years of rejection and fear I’d never be published.
I feel for the writers still on the journey to publication and know I am very fortunate indeed to be in the position I am, about to see my book on the shelf for the very first time. Getting a book published is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s just such a tough wall to break through, especially when you write literary fiction, like I do. The success of the book is really up to the readers. Readers have all the power. No author becomes a bestseller on her own. She’s taken there by the readers. All I hope is that readers like what I’ve written. That they can close the book and be happy they’ve spent their time and money on a book by me.
Thank you for being my guest today Tiffany.
Wishing you success with all your creative projects.
Fielding Bliss has never never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heatwave scorched the small town of Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.
When local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes an invitation to the devil to come to the country town of Breathed, Ohio, nobody quite expects that he will turn up. They especially don’t expect him to turn up as a tattered and bruised thirteen-year-old boy. Fielding, the son of Autopsy, finds the boy outside the courthouse and brings him home, and he is welcomed into the Bliss family. The Blisses believe the boy, who calls himself Sal, is a runaway from a nearby farm town. Then, as a series of strange incidents implicate Sal – and riled by the feverish heatwave baking the town from the inside out – there are some around town who start to believe that maybe Sal is exactly who he claims to be. But whether he’s a traumatised child or the devil incarnate, Sal is certainly one strange fruit: he talks in riddles, his uncanny knowledge and understanding reaches far outside the realm of a normal child – and ultimately his eerily affecting stories of Heaven, Hell, and earth will mesmerise and enflame the entire town.
Devastatingly beautiful, The Summer That Melted Everything is a captivating story about community, redemption, and the dark places where evil really lies.
The YouTube video below shows some great quotes from readers (and that music … eerie!).