11 years after writing her first novel, sending query letters, and searching for agents, Tiffany McDaniel has finally published her first novel — by bringing the devil to her home state of Ohio.
In her compelling debut, The Summer that Melted Everything, she examines the nature of good and evil in a thought-provoking, memorable, sometimes shocking, way. McDaniel’s poetry-like prose paints a small, scorched Ohio town as the setting for her Appalachian Gothic tale that seems to mix her literary fiction style with a folksy, fable-like feel.
Her publisher provides this snyopisis:
“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.”
Books by the Banks Cincinnati Regional Book Festival is McDaniel’s first book festival as a published author. She took part in this Q&A for the Books by the Banks blog ahead of her visit.
How did you get started writing? What’s your writing career been like before publishing this book?
“I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Writing has always been as natural as breathing to me. I’ve just always loved story, reading it and creating it. I started out writing poetry, plays, and short stories. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen-years-old. Starting out that young I was pretty ignorant of the publishing process. I mailed my first query letter out to an agent and I thought everything would be as simple as mailing that letter out. Half the battle is getting an agent and the other half is getting published. I didn’t get a publishing contract until eleven long years later when I got the contract for The Summer that Melted Everything, which is my first published novel but my fifth or sixth novel written. I write literary fiction, and that is a genre that is hard to get publishers to take a risk on. The struggle to get published is the narrative a lot of authors have and for me it was eleven years of rejection and perseverance. It’s been one of those writing careers that has left me with plenty of scars, but it’s also been a path of hard work and determination that has taught me to take nothing for granted.”
What was it like publishing your first book?
“I didn’t realize when I got the book contract that on average it takes two years to move a book through a traditional publishing house. In today’s fast-paced world I was expecting the publishing process to wrap in a few months. So add those two years to the eleven years of working toward publication and I had been waiting thirteen years to see one of my books on the shelf. There’s a lot of waiting in publishing. With publishing a first book you seem to be waiting forever.”
What inspired your idea for The Summer That Melted Everything?
“The novel started first as a title. It was one of those Ohio summers that made me feel like I was melting. I felt everything was melting. Flowers and leaves just dripping to the green summer grass. And thus the title was born. I do start writing a new novel with two things: the title and the first line. These two things direct the entire story for me. There’s not a particular inspiration because the story evolves with each new word and page that I write. But I do find the characters themselves inspiring. The characters exist as real as anybody and they inspire me to write their truths as honestly I can.”
Have you cast any of the characters as movie stars in your head?
“I love film and I write screenplays too. I say that primarily so I might get the chance to adapt the novel should I ever be fortunate for the story to be made into a movie. I’m pretty visual so I would love to have the characters have that added layer that a movie provides to their story. I have cast some of the characters in my mind, perhaps too wishfully. And by wishfully I mean by saying Meryl Streep or Dame Judi Dench as Aunt Fedelia, Kate Winslet as Stella, and Anthony Hopkins for older Fielding. Of course these castings are shooting for the stars, but we can dream.”
Books by the Banks will be your first book festival. What are you looking forward to about the event?
“It is my first festival and I’m honored to be having the experience not only in my home state but with Books by the Banks too. I’m looking forward to seeing how a festival is from the author’s perspective. I’m also looking forward to chatting with readers and signing their books. I prefer conversation with readers over something like reading to them and the atmosphere of festivals allows that. I’m also looking forward to the author panel I’m on. I’m in some good company come October 15th and I’ll look forward to meeting my fellow authors.”
If you could have any job, other than being a writer, what job would it be?
“I’ve always loved archaeological sciences, as well as the exploration and understanding of the universe and its workings, maybe even combing the two into archaeoastronomy. There’s also marine biology and exploring the oceans deep. The wonderful thing about writing is that I can be all of these things. I can be an astronaut looking out the window of my spaceship at the stars. I can ride the back of a whale down to the very depths of the ocean. I can dig in the dirt and uncover the artifacts of yesterday. I can even be a farmer standing on the morning dew of my just- planted field. With writing you can be all of these things, so really what more could I want than the magic afforded to me by word and by page?”
Meet Tiffany McDaniel and 100+ other authors Saturday, Oct. 15!
The mission of Books by the Banks is to entertain and enrich the lives of people in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. The organization works throughout the year to present and promote authors, while celebrating the joy of literacy and lifelong learning through reading and writing.
The premiere event is the Books by the Banks Cincinnati Regional Book Festival held annually in downtown Cincinnati. The day-long festival, which is free and open to the public, features national, regional, and local authors and illustrators; book signings; panel discussions; and activities for the entire family to enjoy.