"The heat came with the devil."
Sometimes ideas can come out of nowhere, where did you first find the inspiration for this novel?
I always start writing a new novel with two things: the title and the first line. The Summer that Melted Everything’s title came about because it was one of those Ohio summers that I just felt like I was melting. I always say what inspires me through the course of writing a novel are the characters themselves. To me, my characters are very real and I’m merely the vessel through which they pass to get into our world. So the characters inspire me to do right by them. To tell their story and their truth to the best of my abilities.
What, or who, inspires you to write? When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?
Writing is the first thing I remember doing as a child outside of any external influence or direction. I had an innate desire to put down what was in my head. As a child I was driven by that internal gear, and as I got older I realized I was writing a story. So nothing inspires me to write. I’m driven to do so by the elements that make me. I always knew I wanted story and the creation of it in my life. But I didn’t know writing was a career to be had until I was much older in middle school. The guidance counselor had come into our class to talk to us about our futures. She was asking what we wanted to be. I was a child of parents who had jobs, and very hard jobs at that. Jobs that made them tired and not a lot of money. So I thought that’s what I would have to do with my life. When the guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to be. I didn’t know. She then asked me what I like to do. I said I loved to write. And she said I would be a writer then. That was the first moment I realized writing was an actual career. Before I thought it was just something people did outside of their regular jobs. So 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.
Your writing is so beautifully detailed, I have to ask: did you create this setting yourself or is it based on something you have seen?
The setting in the novel is in the fictional town of Breathed, Ohio, which is a town based after my time spent in southern Ohio on the hilly acreage my father was left by his parents. Having spent my childhood summers down home was like being one of the lizards crawling the screen door, one of the bullfrogs by the creek edge, one of the tall blades of grass in the field. That southern culture and beauty really has shaped me as a writer. It has been the fuel to the explosion that is my craft.
Fielding is a very special character to the novel, and leads us through many journeys. He learns a lot from Sal in his youth, but seems to struggle throughout adulthood. What makes him special to you?
Fielding is indeed very special. There’s a burden and a guilt that he carries that I wish he would set down, but I also respect him for that very carrying. He has pushed his own happiness and the chance for it off to the side, while at the same time allowing himself to be ferried back to the past, if only out of respect to those he’s lost. Fielding is raw emotion and exposed heart. How can someone like that not be special?
As an aspiring author, I understand the passion that goes behind each of your works. Writing brings to life all of these small ideas you have in your head, but it is not an easy journey. What I want to know is, what is an aspect of the writing process that you struggle with?
Writing for me is the easy part. The hard part is getting published. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I didn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine. It was eleven years of rejection and fear I’d never be published. Literary fiction, the genre I write, is especially hard to get publishers to take a chance on because it could be a financial risk. Literary fiction isn’t as lucrative to invest in as commercial fiction, so a lot of it gets pushed to the side and rejected. Knowing you’re an aspiring author, to you I say never give up. The journey to publication can be heartbreaking and really painful emotionally, and sometimes you may feel like you just want to stop, but please don’t. You owe it to yourself to go after your dream and not turn your back on it.
Without spoiling anything for potential readers, what was your favourite scene in the novel? Whether it was favourite to write, read, or experience!
I have several favorite scenes, but one of them is the one where Fielding Bliss meets Sal for the first time. Sal is the character who comes to answer the invitation in the newspaper inviting the devil to town. Seeing Fielding and Sal meet for the first time, is on the surface just a meeting of two boys. But really it’s the beginning of everything.
What has been the most exciting thing for you, throughout the entire process of working with St. Martins Press?
I got the offer from St. Martin’s when I was twenty-nine, and am thirty-one years old now about to see my book on the shelf July 26th. So it does take a very long time even after you get that contract with a publishing house and sometimes the excitement wanes when it comes to the business side of being an author. Especially when all you want is to hold your book in your hand. So I’d say the most exciting thing is yet to come. When I can actually hold The Summer that Melted Everything in my hand and know that eleven years of trying to get published, added to two years of being in the process of getting published, is the culmination of thirteen years. It will be amazing to have the fruit of that labor.
I would love to learn more about the person behind the novel! What do you like to do when you are not writing? Are you a big reader? What is your favourite movie? Are you into travelling?
I am a big reader. As a kid I went to bed with a stack of books my mother would read to me. Through adolescence I was hooked on R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street as I was very much a kid into the ghouls and monsters among us. That hasn’t changed. Some of my favorite movies reflect this. Stanley Kurbick’s The Shining. Misery. Beetlejuice. Little Shop of Horrors. When I’m not writing I do watch these movies and more. I love film. I also love art. I paint in all mediums from oil to watercolors. I use pastels and charcoal, really anything that allows me to create image. I love to garden and dream about my own greenhouse one day. I like the idea of traveling more than the experience of packing and the acts that go along with getting to a place and back again. But I love the idea of traveling to the ancient ruins, and even to archeological sites. I’m very much into digging into the dirt, hoping to find some dinosaur bone or arrowhead or pot from some other time and some other land.
I know this may seem premature since it's still early for your first novel, but do you have any plans for another?
I absolutely do. I have eight completed novels and am working on my ninth. Like I said publishing moves at a snail’s pace, and I’m just waiting for publishing to catch up to me. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s a story about a Jewish brother and sister who flee Nazi Germany and end up in my land of Ohio. While here they create their own camp of judgment, punishing themselves for surviving and in that realizing it wasn’t just Hitler they needed to survive, but it’s each other as well.
Do you have anything you would like to say to anyone reading this interview?
That you, readers, have all the power. It’s not the agents or the editors or the publishing houses as a whole that determine a writer’s career. It’s the readers. Without readers buying books, there are no novelists to be had. Readers give meaning to an author’s words. So if you like a book, tell everyone you know. Be that book’s champion because if you do, you’re being a champion for the author herself. My only hope is that readers like what I’ve written. That they can count on me to deliver a story that is worth both their time and their hard-earned money. Nothing would make me happier than to know a reader has finished one of my books with the pleasure of having read it. That’s what I strive for as an author. To be someone’s favorite author, as so many authors have been mine.
If people would like to follow you on social networks, how can they find you?
I’m not on social media, but they can jump on to my website at www.tiffanymcdaniel.com
Readers can also connect with me directly through my website. That connection to readers is very important to me. As I’ve said, they’re the ones who determine an author’s entire career. How can I not give them some of my time, when they’ve given me some of their time reading my book?
I would like to give Tiffany a huge thank you, both for letting me read her debut novel, and taking the time to answer my questions! I am extremely interested in other's writing processes and experiences, so these are so much fun for me to do! Make sure you check out her website, and her novel being released on July 26th!