Today I am VERY happy to welcome Tiffany McDaniel to the blog talking about her brilliantly evocative novel “The Summer that Melted Everything”. Details on the book and my review to follow.. Thanks so much to her for taking the time.
First of all I want you to know that I LOVED this story – like nothing I’ve read before with such depth of language to describe the people and the places and well, lots of things – so whilst I do try and stay away from the terribly generic “Where did the idea come from” I think in this case I MUST ask it. What inspired the devil to go to Breathed, Ohio?
First off, thank you for the wonderful things you’ve said about the novel. I am so happy to hear you’ve enjoyed your time spent with the story. That’s all I hope for as an author, to write something readers are not disappointed at having spent their time reading. So thank you.
To answer your question, I always say my ideas come from the elements that make me. That in the crossing wires and flickering lights of my soul, there exists the source of ideas. As it exists for all authors. That point of origin that fills our bucket when we visit the well. Call that source imagination, infinity, or chaos. Whatever it is, the ideas are born there. I can’t get down to all the details of how this comes about writing a certain story, because creativity can’t be brought down to a science. I will say for me, my characters are always the ones who inspire a story forward. I owe it to them to write the best beginning, middle, and end of a story that I can.
I don’t want to give anything away because this is one of those books where actually the less you know the better absorbed into that world you will become – but one of the themes running throughout was that of family and small town ties – Autopsy was a particularly inspiring character I found – can you talk a little about how you made the connections, built the characters? And did you have a favourite to write?
I never outline or pre-plan the story. When I have an idea for a novel, it’s an unshapen ball. The story evolves with each new word I type and each new page written. I always say that I’m even surprised where the story goes and who the characters become. I’d like to say all these connections are planned but the thing about writing, or about creation at all, is that it’s best created without a plan, at least for me.
To answer your second question, one of my favorite characters to write was Sal. He’s the one come to answer the invitation inviting the devil to town. He was a character that was a contradiction. An old soul in a young body. He has a particular type of poetry and wisdom about him that is always fun to write. Furthermore, because he’s presenting himself as the devil, I got to write that “fallen angel” dialogue. And that’s a very unique conversation to undertake.
I’m going to leave it there on plot although I’m certainly going to be encouraging people to pick this up and discover Fielding and that long hot summer he inhabited – so perhaps tell us a little about your writing inspirations, heroes of the literary world. If you pick up a book to read for pure pleasure whose book would it likely be?
Ray Bradbury is pure magic. Infinity isn’t complete without him. I love all of his work. I say I haven’t been to Mars and back, but Bradbury has taken me pretty close. I want to be buried with his Dandelion Wine. I wish I could open the book, jump into the pages, and go running the fields with the rest of wildflowers he’s written.
Shirley Jackson. She walks on water that one. I haven’t read a Shirley Jackson book or short story I don’t like. I especially love We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s the first Jackson novel I read and it’s like moonshine caught in honey.
I was a kid of the 90s so I was very much in love with R.L. Stine’s Fear Street and Goosebumps series. I read them to this day. I also love Agatha Christie. Opening one of her books is like meeting an old friend. The gang isn’t complete without Harper Lee, Donna Tartt, and Kazuo Ishiguro. I love the poetry of James Wright. Line after line is so lovely I want to hoard it in my soul.
What do you hope people take away from reading “The Summer that Melted Everything” – or to put you on the spot slightly if you only had 5 words to describe it what would those words be?
A message in five words? Tricky. I’d say:
Be who you are. Always.
And what is next? Do you have another novel brewing and if so can you give us any hints?
I have eight completed novels and am currently working on my ninth. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, flee across the Atlantic Ocean and end up in my land of Ohio. While here the siblings create their own camp of judgement, where they serve as both the guards and the prisoners, punishing themselves for surviving. This is a story about guilt. What it does to us. How we live with it. Ultimately whether or not we can survive it.
Thanks so much!
About the book:
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.
“Don’tcha wanta live forever?”
“I’m the devil. I am already forever.”
The Summer that Melted Everything is an incredible novel – I absolutely devoured this one and it is one of those books where the sheer beauty of the prose digs deep into you, the story unfolding in your minds eye, hauntingly evocative and intensely addictive.
It is a difficult one to talk about when it comes to plot, you really do not want to give anything away, in its simplest form we follow Fielding Bliss as he remembers one summer from his youth – the summer that the devil came to the small town of Breathed, Ohio and changed everything forever.
This is a unique and incredibly insightful novel, I have not read anything like it before and I do not expect to read anything like it again – a sprawling, deeply haunting and alluring tale that just sucks you into its vortex. You feel every moment of it and the characters you will meet within the pages will stay with you forever. Fielding, his father Autopsy, the inhabitants of Breathed Ohio all come to stunning life – and oh Autopsy (what a name and what a character) – forget Atticus Finch, Autopsy is a quiet but magical force of nature.
I say no more on story you have to discover for yourself – The Summer that Melted Everything is a novel that demands to be read, whatever your taste in books this is an immediate classic – setting, atmosphere, genuinely absorbing, so so beautiful in its complexity I will need to read it again to capture more of the essence of it.
People talk about talented writers. I’ve read a lot of books this year that could speak to that – but Tiffany McDaniel has that something “other” – that indefinable X Factor in the use of language that just changes conceptually the way you see things. I loved it. Very much.
You can purchase The Summer that Melted Everything HERE
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