Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Genres: Literary Fiction - Contemporary - Gothic
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.
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. The Summer that Melted Everything is her debut novel.
First off, thank you so much for the opportunity to read The Summer That Melted Everything! I would have been missing something special if I had never read it.
So where the heck did Tiffany McDaniel come from? How have we never heard of you before?
Thank you for the kind introduction. The thanks all goes to you, I assure you, for taking a chance on me and on the novel and generously giving of your time to read it. To answer your question, I literally come from Ohio. Metaphorically, and the reason you’ve never heard of me before, is because I’ve been in the abyss that is home to the unpublished author. 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, which is my fifth or sixth book written. This is the narrative so many authors have. The road to publication is discouraging and heart-breaking. For me it was eleven years of rejection and fear I’d never be published. So that’s where I come from…happily emerged from the abyss.
This was a very heavy, or some would call "lofty" novel. Where do you think literary fiction like yours has a place in modern literature?
Literary fiction describes and delivers to the reader the inner life and psychology of the characters. That’s not to say literary fiction doesn’t have a plot. It’s just not a commercial plot propelled by literal explosions and bombs. The chaos of literary fiction happens below the surface of water. With literary fiction, readers are expected to go beneath that surface to dive deep down to the ocean floor. Furthermore, I read an article that reading literary fiction improves empathy. I can understand why this would be the case. The reader is drawn into the minds of the characters, and those types of stories always have a place in literature, because in essence we are discovering the psychology of our own selves. One of the reasons it took me eleven years to get a foot in the publishing door is because literary fiction isn’t a genre the publishers are too happy to take a risk on. Publishers don’t feel that literary fiction is as big of a financial return as commercial fiction. But I think over and over again, readers have proven they have an appetite for darker literary fiction.
Who do you wish would read this? (or) What is your intended audience?
I don’t have an intended audience or reader in mind. I think this is a book that any reader can take a chance on. The issues and subject matter certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but the message of the novel is something I think most readers will be interested in uncovering.
I love your combination of heavy Christian morality with progressive cultural issues like racism and homophobia. Was this juxtaposition motivated by current events?
I never set out to write about these issues, but as the characters and their story developed these issues became the characters’ truths. While the book wasn’t motivated by current events, (I wrote the book in a month three years ago) it is certainly a novel that speaks to the moment we have before us because racism, homophobia, and other discriminating feelings have been with us as long as our human story has existed. These things will continue to be with us in the future. Things will continue to get better, but these issues and the story of them will always remain relevant to our social climate.
What made you choose to use the Devil as a character?
I always start writing a new novel with two things. The title and the first line. I never outline or plan the story out beforehand. So when I wrote that first line, it really determined I would be writing about the devil. I will say I didn’t want to write the stereotypical devil of red flesh, horns, cloven hooves and a pitchfork. It’s time we had a different devil, if only to encourage us to look at the devil within ourselves.
You name drop a lot of classic novels in here. Were you making direct nods to any with TSTME?
I used quotes from Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost” to title my chapters. I first read the epic poem when I was in my early twenties so when I was thinking of my chapter titles, the poem and the story of my novel seemed like a natural fit as they’re both discussing the fall of man. I only hope I’ve done Milton proud by including his beautiful verse which does outshine my own words by miles. The other work referenced in the novel is George Orwell’s masterpiece, 1984, which is a novel all about the loss of individual thought and the dangers of herd mentality. Without giving spoilers away, these themes course through The Summer that Melted Everything.
Some names you've got here. Fielding, Autopsy, Grandfather. What made you choose them?
I always say the characters know their names before I do. It’s my job as the author to name the characters their truth. Sometimes it can be as simple as seeing the word that day I’m writing. That was the case with Autopsy. I had seen the word and when I look up the definition and the origins of the word’s meaning, which is ‘to see for one self,’ there really was no other name for a man who one day invites the devil to town.
What is the highest praise and/or best compliment you have received on this book?
I’ll never feel deserving of the compliments, but one of the early reviews we got of the novel was from author Donald Ray Pollock. He said:
“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, PEN/Robert Bingham award winning author of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time
Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite authors. I’m not deserving at all of having her name brought up in relation with my writing, but that definitely brought a smile to my face.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Since I was a kid. Writing is the first thing I remember doing without being told to do so. Writing is my compass. I’m lost without it. I wouldn’t realize writing was a profession I could have until I was in middle school and the guidance counselor came to my class to talk to us about what we wanted to be when we got older. Writing was just so wonderful to me I didn’t think you could get paid to do it. My parents had jobs, very hard jobs that made them tired and not a lot of money. So I thought that’s what I would have to do. Have a job I didn’t like. Though it took me eleven long years to get a publishing contract, realizing I could have writing as a career, was like being told I could pocket all the stars in the night sky and have light with me forever.
What was the first thing you did when you found out you were going to be published?
I told my mom who cried.
Are there any questions you wish you'd be asked about TSTME?
I’ve been happy with the really amazing and interesting questions I’ve been asked thus far, and I think readers have been really great with asking me things I wouldn’t even have thought of to ask.
What's next? And when the heck can I buy your next book?
I have eight completed novels and am working on my ninth. The novel I’m hoping to followThe Summer that Melted Everything up with is titled, When Lions Stood as Men. It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, cross the Atlantic Ocean, and end up in my land of Ohio. Struggling with the guilt of surviving the Holocaust, they create their own camp of judgment. Being both the guards and the prisoners, they punish themselves not only for surviving, but for the sins they know they cannot help but commit. I will say I’m less likely to get a second book contract if The Summer that Melted Everything doesn’t do well. Publishing is a business, after all, and it all comes down to book sales. So I’ll say to all readers, if you want to see more books from me in the future, please do spread word of The Summer that Melted Everything to your family, friends, and other readers. Really with a book like The Summer that Melted Everything, word-of-mouth is going to be the thing that lets anyone know the novel even exists.