Last week I reviewed Tiffany McDaniel’s ambitious debut novel The Summer that Melted Everything which you can check out here.
Today, the very day that The Summer that Melted Everything comes out, I have the honor of interviewing author Tiffany McDaniel and ask her some questions about her and her novel. Enjoy!
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.
1. I have yet to meet a writer who doesn’t also like to read, so the inevitable question follows: what do you like to read?
Reading and writing does go hand in hand. Two partners matched from one end of eternity to the other. I couldn’t go to bed as a kid without my mother reading me a huge stack of books. And then as I got older, I chose the bookstore as other kids chose the toy store. There is still nothing better to me than a book. Throw everything else away, but may books never meet an end. I read everything from literary fiction to murder mystery. Non-fiction to poetry. If it’s been written and it interests me, I’ll read it. As long as it’s a story I want to take with me to the stars, then I don’t care about genre.
2. Other than Milton’s Paradise Lost (excerpts of which are used as chapter epigraphs), what other stories have inspired your novel?
I always say what inspires me are the characters themselves. To me, the characters are real people and they inspire me to tell their truth as honestly as I can. They exist, whispering in my ear until I get it right. That’s how I know when their story is told, when they are silent, their story loud on the page.
3. What is your writing routine? Writing habits?
I never outline or pre-plan. My routine is really very boring. I just sit in front of the laptop and type. I can only hope I give the characters the best beginning, middle, and end that they deserve.
4. What led you to write the story that you did? How did the story evolve as you wrote it?
When I start writing a new novel, I always start with two things. The title and the first line. These two things lead the entire story. I always write from beginning to end and then draft through. Its evolution coming like bone gaining flesh, until the story can stand on its own two legs.
5. The Summer that Melted Everything deals with a lot of difficult topics like race, sexuality, and morality. Why did you decide to tackle these particular topics, and what research did you do, if any, to fairly represent them?
I don’t do a lot of research for my novels, unless they’re in a specific time frame. So for The Summer that Melted Everything I researched the 1980s. I was born in 1985, so my imaginings of the decade is heavily influenced by television shows and movies filmed in that decade. This may be a stereotype, but for me the 1980s, with its neon colors, big hair, and big ambitions, seem like a decade-long summer. In writing about the 1980s I had also unintentionally decided to write about AIDS, because no matter what, the 1980s is defined the disease. It’s the onset of fear and panic the disease created in the nation as a whole. The 1980s was thrown a curve-ball in sex relations. How we have sex, think about sex, and even fear sex was exploded during that time. So that’s really where my research for this novel was focused. Again, these topics feel less like a decision on my part, and more of who the characters themselves are. This is their racism, sexuality, morality. These are their truths.
6. It is quite ambitious to reimagine a figure as well-known as the devil. How did you come up with Sal, the thirteen-year-old black boy who comes to Breathed, Ohio claiming he’s the devil?
I always feel like I don’t create my characters. They’re already created. Sal is his own existence in that way. I’d like to say I came up with him. But when I was thinking of the devil, really no other image, age, gender came to mind. This boy in overalls with bruises and a hunger for ice cream. For all the creating I do with a story, the characters create themselves.
Questions from My Readers
1. What is your favorite memory connected to writing The Summer that Melted Everything? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a writing memory but anything from the time you were writing it. – William C.
I’d say my favorite memory has yet to come. And that is seeing the book on the shelf at the bookstore for the first time. It would be the fruit of eleven long years of trying to get published, added to the two years of getting published. So thirteen years I’ve been waiting to see a book on the shelf. That’s going to be a very special day and memory.
2. What constitutes as a productive day for your writing? – Andrew H.
As long as the story is progressing, that’s a productive day. I don’t strive for a certain number of words or number of pages. It’s like walking through a tall grass field at night with my hands out. I hope to catch some fireflies, but it’s okay if I don’t. They’ll be caught when they’re ready for their light to lead the way.
3. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers in regards to the publishing world? – Elizabeth W.
I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen-years-old and didn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine. It was eleven, long years of heart-ache and rejection and doors closed in my face. I honestly never believed I would be published and I didn’t really know what I was going to do with my life. I know this is the same despair many authors still on the journey to publication face. There were so many times I just wanted to give up, and if I had, I wouldn’t be here where I am now about to see my book on the shelf for the first-time. So to you aspiring authors out there, hang in there. Shed the tears you have to shed, but dry your face. Stand up when rejection knocks you down, and fight. Fight for your dream of being a published author. It will happen for you one day. Believe that your name is meant to be on a book and never lose faith that it will be.
Thanks again to Tiffany McDaniel for offering me an ARC to read and for the opportunity to interview her. Thanks to my readers for their wonderful questions and sorry that I wasn’t able to include them all!
For more information on Tiffany McDaniel and her book, check out her website here.