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Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Interview with "The Summer that Melted Everything" Author, Tiffany McDaniel

I was so excited to have the opportunity to interview the author of one of my favourite books so far this year, Tiffany McDaniel! I've corresponded a lot with her through e-mail and she is quite literally one of the most warm, lovely people I've encountered during my bookstagramming days. McDaniel talks about the long road to getting published and the difficulties she encountered along the way, as well as her thoughts on the physical book vs kindle debate. Oh, and the books you definitely must read in your lifetime! 

Photo Credit: Jennifer McDaniel

Hi Tiffany, can you give a brief description of what your debut novel, The Summer that Melted Everything, is about and where you got your inspiration from?

Tiffany: The Summer that Melted Everything is about a man who one day puts an invitation in the newspaper, inviting the devil to town. A boy, claiming to be the devil, answers the invitation, only this boy is not your stereotypical devil of red flesh and horns. This so-called devil’s arrival coincides with the start of a heat-wave that threatens to destroy the town’s very sanity. As the summer unfolds, the boy’s presence has tragic consequences on the town and everyone in it. Who is the real devil? That is a question The Summer that Melted Everything sets out to answer.
To answer the second part of your question, the novel started first as a title. It was one of those hot Ohio summers that I felt like I was melting. I always start writing a new novel with the title and the first line. These two things lead the entire rest of the story for me. As far as where I got the inspiration from, it wasn’t anything external, but rather I am inspired by the characters themselves. I have a responsibility to the characters to write their truths to the best of my ability. 


When you wrote this book, did you always have a definite ending in sight or did the story evolve as you progressed?

T: I don’t outline, do character sketches, or plan a story beforehand. The story evolves with each new word and page I write. I think if you plan a story too much, you can domesticate it, and I like to preserve the story’s wild soul. Writing this way means I end up being just as surprised writing it the first time as the reader is reading the first time. I don’t yet know how a story will end until I write that final line. With this particular novel, I knew there was going to be melted things, but what was melted, I wouldn’t know until I placed that final period. 


Did you encounter any difficulties in getting TSTME published? 

T: I should say that while TSTME is my first published novel, it’s actually my fifth or sixth novel written. I worked for eleven years toward publication. It took me 5-7 years just to get my first agent. I was often told my writing and storytelling was risky to publish, which is something I think female literary fiction authors hear more than their male counterparts. When TSTME went on submission to editors it was rejected by every publisher it was sent to, except for one. For the most part, publishing has been an uphill battle for me and not one part of it has been easy. But the struggle has made me the author I am today. An author who knows the value of hard work and the value of each and every reader. 


What are you currently working on?

T: I have eight completed novels. The novel I hope to follow TSTME is titled The Chaos We’ve Come From. It’s the first novel I wrote when I was eighteen. It’s inspired by my mother’s coming-of-age from the 1950s to the death of her father in the early 1970s. It feels like a good time to return to this story, and to these characters. I’m also compiling my first poetry collection. 


If you could go for a coffee with any author, past or present, who would it be and why?

T: Perhaps because I am an author, I know our characters are sometimes more interesting than us. There are some authors I would like to chat with like Agatha Christie, Shirley Jackson, or Ray Bradbury. But more than them, I’d love to chat with their characters. Imagine solving a crime with Hercule Poirot, mixing up poison with Merricat Blackwood, or running the dandelion fields with Douglas Spaulding. Now those would be pretty great ways to spend the day.


What do you think about the book vs kindle debate? Do you think books will ultimately be swallowed up by technology in a similar vein to radio/magazines?

T: I love printed books. But our landscape is constantly changing, and part of that change is due to our increasing dependence on technology. In the wake of that dependence, some things will be left behind in the past. I certainly hope print books are not one of those things. I should say that I’ve never been on social media, I’ve never downloaded a song, and I don’t own an e-reader, so I try to live a life with as little tech as possible. With that being said, there are people born today who will most likely grow up reading only e-books, and will never have the experience of reading a printed book. These kids of tech will come to live with e-books as the carrier of story that they are most familiar with, and that familiarity could very well contribute to the death of paper. We’re becoming a society in love with the ease and convenience of words on our screens. I don’t think books will ever completely disappear. But I think, like with all media, there will come a day that print books will become too expensive to print versus their digital counterparts. There will still be a market for print books, but that market will always be in competition with the convenient and affordable digital book. Of course, some recent statistics coming out say that the sales of print books are rising, while the sales of digital books are dropping. There is hope for printed paper and I don’t think printed books will be disappearing anytime soon. 


For me, The Summer that Melted Everything is one of those books that I will be adding to my list of “Books That Everyone Must Read” – what books would fall into this category for you?

T: First off, I’m honoured to be on your “must read” list. It’s always hard to feel deserving of something like that, because I know the world’s library is teeming with candidates that enlighten us, encourage us, or give us hope in ways only good books can.
To answer your question, I’ve always written more than I’ve read, so I have lots of authors and books left to read. Give it a few years down the road and my answer to this might change. I have my favourite novels like Dandelion Wine and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but books that are a must read due to their message are The Diary of Anne Frank, Fahrenheit 451, The Giving Tree, The Velveteen Rabbit, and Miss Rumphius. The last three books are picture books, but their meaning of kindness and love shouldn’t be discounted because they’re shelved in the kids section. 


What inspired you to be a writer?

T: There was never an external inspiration to write. There’s only ever been an internal creative wheel that has driven me to story. Writing is the first thing I remember doing as a child without being told to do so. I’d write poetry, short stories, and make homemade books out of notebook paper and cardboard. Writing is my compass. It’s who I am. I’m lost without it. 


Lastly, do you have any words of encouragement for aspiring writers?

T: Never give up. Like I said, The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, but it’s actually my fifth or sixth novel written. 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. It was a long eleven-year journey to publication, full of rejection and perseverance, but if I had given up, I wouldn’t be where I am today with a book on the shelf. So to all the writers out there on the journey to publication, I say, don’t let rejection destroy you. Let rejection empower you.

3 comments :

  1. Awesome interview!! I really enjoyed her book and being able to interview her as well. She is definitely one of the sweetest people I've chatted with!

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  2. Amazing interview, Jo! I'm so impressed and I'm definitely going to add this book to my MUST read book list!

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  3. Excellent interview. I'm currently reading this and enjoying it very much. Inspiring to hear her message of perseverance and hard work. Thank you for sharing this with us!

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