The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Published by: St. Martin’s Press/Pan Macmillan (July 26th 2016)
Goodreads summary: 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 temperatures 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 wrestles with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.
Q: Congratulations on the release of your debut novel! You’re also a poet and a screenwriter – was publishing your own novel always part of the plan?
First off, thank you for your congratulations. To answer your question, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Short stories, poetry, plays, but I’ve always wanted to be a novelist. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything, which is my fifth or sixth novel I’ve written. Trying for eleven years to get a foot in the publishing door wasn’t part of the plan, but being a novelist always was.
Q: How long was the process, overall – from the moment you dreamed your characters to life to actually being able to hold a copy of your published work in your hands?
I wrote The Summer that Melted Everything in a month when I was twenty-eight. I got the publishing offer when I was twenty-nine. I didn’t know this when I got the deal, but on average it takes a book to move through a publishing house about two years. In today’s fast-paced world, traditional publishing still moves at a snail’s pace, unfortunately. I’ve had two birthdays since getting the publishing offer, so I’m thirty-one now. With all the years added up from the time I wrote my first novel to now, it’s been thirteen years since I’ve been waiting to see one of my novels on the shelf. July 26th will be a very special day indeed.
Q: The Summer that Melted Everything is set in your hometown of Ohio – did you weave any personal experiences into the story?
While the story itself is not based on personal experience, the landscape certainly is. The story takes place in the fictional town of Breathed, Ohio, which is a landscape very much reflective of my childhood summers and school-year weekends spent in southern Ohio, where the hills speak, the creek paces in its own good time, and the roads are dirt-laid and grass-lined. That wildflower song, front porch chatter, and southern twang has shaped me as a writer. Having spent my childhood summers down-home was like being one of the rolling hills, forever rooted in rust and dirt and moon-shine magic.
Q: Was there a reason that you chose to place your characters in 1984?
When I was thinking of the time frame for the story, the 1980s came to mind because when I think of the 1980s I see a decade of neon colors, big hair, and even bigger ambitions. It seems like a decade-long summer. I don’t know how the decade really was. I was born in 1985, too young to be aware of the times around me. The reason I decided on 1984 was because of the parallels I was hoping to draw with George Orwell’s masterpiece, 1984, which of course is all about the loss of individual thought. Using 1984 as the year for the summer was a natural fit.
Q: “There is power in a name.” I know that when I used to write in high school, I struggled quite a lot to find names for my characters. Fielding Bliss and Sal are very unique names – how did you come up with them?
I always say the characters know their names before I do. It’s my job as the author to take hints from the characters. To know my characters enough that I write their true name.
Q: Did you ever find it difficult to tap into the mind of a teenage boy and if so, how did you overcome this challenge?
Surprisingly I didn’t find it difficult to write as a teenage boy. My job as an author is to become any gender, race, age. It’s all about allowing oneself to slip into that identity, and for the most part I find that to be one of the most exciting things about writing. To be able to become someone else and know life through their eyes.
Q: You mention that the Bliss family struggle with some personal demons in the novel – how important was the family dynamic in the novel?
The family dynamic is very important. When I wrote the first line in the novel, I didn’t think family would end up being the heart of the story. I thought this is a story that is going to invite attachment from the town and beyond. I thought it was going to be a story where the events were shaping people at a national, if not worldly stage. But then it came back to the Bliss family. The story really doesn’t exist without them and their bond. The father, the mother, the sons, and Sal included in that. Family became the answer to the opposing side. Family became that which bore the brunt of the events, but it is also that which made the events matter. Family is the universal statement of love, after all.
Q: I noticed that you have a lot of original artwork on your website, representing characters and scenes in the novel – do you use artwork often as another medium for your creativity?
I do. There’s an ease with art and for me it doesn’t come with the same pressure as writing the perfect sentence, because with art, perfection is thrown out the window. Art is made of crooked lines and errors even, and in these faults the beauty breathes. Art teaches me to let my writing breath as well.
Q: I’m so excited that The Summer that Melted Everything is now available from multiple outlets online and in store, and I’m sure many of your readers will be aspiring authors themselves. Do you have any tips or words of encouragement to share with them?
I would encourage them to never give up. It took me years to get an agent, years to get a publishing contract. I’m not saying this to discourage authors still on the journey to publication. I’m saying this so they know it can take a while and that the length of time it takes isn’t a reflection of your talent. Don’t get discouraged. You owe it to yourself to not turn your back on your dream. It will happen for you. Believe it. Dust yourself off after the rejections. Write more, write better, and write stronger. You owe it to yourself to never give up.
The Summer That Melted Everything is now available online and in-store from leading retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository and Dymocks. For more information, check out Tiffany’s website.