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Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel - Interview & Book Review

About Tiffany McDaniel
An Ohio native, Tiffany McDaniel’s writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. She is also a poet, playwright, screenwriter, and artist. The Summer that Melted Everything is her debut novel.

1) Could you tell a bit about yourself?

I’m an Ohio poet and novelist who wants to share a glass of Dandelion Wine with Ray Bradbury and have a good haunting with Shirley Jackson.

2) You've chosen a very hot summer for your story. What inspired you to write about that time?

The Summer that Melted Everything started out as a title first. It was one of those Ohio summers that I just felt like I was melting into a puddle of myself at my feet, and thus the title was born. I do always start writing a novel with two things. The title and the first line. These two things lead the entire story. I always say the inspiration to write the story comes from the characters themselves. My characters feel very real to me and they inspire me, demand even, that I get their story right. That I tell their truths as honestly as I can.

3) The devil is a very important part of your book, can you tell a bit more about it?

When I wrote that first line, I didn’t know how the devil would be just yet. What would unfold that summer upon his so-called arrival. What I didn’t want to write, was the stereotypical devil of red flesh and horns. We’ve had enough of that devil. It’s time we had something else. A devil that is not so obvious. An evil that we find amongst ourselves.  

4) Can you describe Sal in 6 words?

A fallen angel. A fallen boy.

5) You're a writer and an artist. What's the best thing about that combination?

I’d say being able to use words as a writer and use visuals as an artist to express the same story. Art is definitely fuel to be creative. 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.

6) What did your journey to become a published author look like?

I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine. It was eleven years of rejection and fear I’d never be published. I honestly believed I never would be published because the despair and heart-ache on the road to publication eats at one’s soul until that is all there is to believe. Even with a publishing contract in place, publishing moves at a snail’s pace, and it’s taken two years to see the book journey through the publishing house. So with all the years counted up, I’ve been waiting thirteen long years to see one of my books on the shelf. July 26th is going to be a very special day indeed. I just might sprout wings and fly the highest mountain peaks.

7) What's your opinion about good and evil, is it black and white or is there also a lot of grey?

There’s lots of grey. True villains have the possibility for goodness. And true heroes have the possibility to be evil. We all have that good and evil inside us, and for the most part we make a path through that gray middle ground between the halos and the horns. Hoping we are always nearer to the clouds than we are to the ground.

8) There's a lot of artwork on your website. Did you make it while writing your book, before or after or is it a mix of all?

I tend to only paint the characters and scenes from my novel after I’ve completed the novel, just because I need to create them through story before I create them through image. So my writing does influence my artwork more than vice versa. Once I have that story in my head, the canvas is that which I let out the visuals in my head upon. It’s in essence, another dimension to the story. A story I can sit back and see in its own good time.

9) You have a great way with words. What does language mean to you?

I love words. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been drawn to story. Reading it. Creating it. Living with it. I can’t imagine life without words. To me, it’s everything. They are the things that make up my soul, wrapping around it until I’m complete. I’m lost without story and words. 

10) Your writing is inspired by rolling hills and woods around you. What makes them so special?

The fictional town in the novel, Breathed, Ohio, and its landscape is based on my childhood summers and school-year weekends spent in southern Ohio on the hilly acreage and in the cinderblock house my father was left by his parents. It’s a front porch type of place. A place that has shaped me as an author. I’ve said before, cut me open and there will be a release of fireflies and moon-shine. That’s what makes the rolling hills and woods special. That they are inside me. As I have been inside them.

11) What are your plans for the future?

I have eight completed novels. I’m currently working on my ninth. The Summer that Melted Everything, while it is my first published novel, it’s actually the fifth or sixth novel I’ve written thus far. The novel I’m hoping to follow it up with is my newest completed novel, When Lions Stood as Men. It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, flee across the Atlantic and end up in my land of Ohio. Trying to come to terms with their survivors’ guilt, the two siblings create their own camp of judgment up in the hills of Ohio. A camp in which they serve as both the guards and the prisoners. It’s a unique story on what it means to survive guilt. On what it means to survive love itself.
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Review by Suze
For Fielding Bliss the summer of 1984 had a lot of impact, it changed his life forever. His forever curious father, a man of the law, put an advertisement in the paper to invite the devil into his home. When a thirteen-year-old boy named Sal shows up in Breathed it's hard to believe he is actually evil incarnate. Sal is malnourished, he doesn't seem to be reported missing anywhere, he looks tatty and he has no roof over his head. Because he has nowhere else to go it's decided Sal can stay with Fielding's family.
It's scorching hot in Breathed and there's no relief from the heat. Wherever Sal and Fielding go accidents happen and soon the inhabitants of Breathed believe that Sal is indeed the devil. Sal isn't like any other teenager. He's wise beyond his years, he's educated, he knows everything about everyone and he can quote the Bible. There's a man in Breathed who doesn't want to have Sal anywhere near him at all. While he spreads the word, hatred for the boy grows while Sal has only ever been kind. For Fielding it means the world as he knew it will end and this one hot summer will be what defines who he is for the rest of his days.
The Summer That Melted Everything is beautifully written. It's a fantastic literary story with an interesting premise. The question what evil really looks like and in what forms it can be manifested fascinated me from the start. Tiffany McDaniel has skillfully written a story that is shocking and stunning at the same time. What is right and what is wrong? A series of actions in this story often lead to something that is usually seen as a crime, but in reality, when you look closer, can it also be an act of mercy? I loved the shifting of boundaries, the playing with morals, the universal fears and hopes and the unfounded hatred. Tiffany McDaniel isn't afraid, she doesn't limit herself, and she doesn't stay away from difficult topics. She gives everything she has and has obviously poured all of her creativity into this story, which is something I admire. The Summer That Melted Everything is unique, powerful and mesmerizing.
Tiffany McDaniel challenges her readers. I love that she made me think about opposites like right versus wrong, cruelty versus mercy, love versus hate and fear versus courage. There are so many great grey areas in her book and I liked that she kept making me come up with my own explanations and interpretations. She doesn't tell her readers what to feel, but she guarantees that they will feel a lot. I had tears in my eyes, I was grinding my teeth in frustration, I felt love for the main characters and wanted to yell at them at the same time and I wanted to stop the snowball effect, while I also wanted it to keep rolling, because I was both too scared and curious to see what would happen if it would finally stop. There's chaos, there's conflict and there's unfairness, which is a mix that can only lead to disaster and Tiffany McDaniel writes about it in a hypnotizing, spellbinding way.
The Summer That Melted Everything is a story that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The ending is inevitable, but it still surprised me. The unexpected keeps happening in this book. I love how Tiffany McDaniel plays with concepts like Heaven and Hell and the outcome of what she does is always terrible, but it's also perfectly fitting. She is in control and never gives that up. She's written a masterly story, a brilliant debut that I highly recommend. 
Book Trailer


  1. I saw this book on another blog and had it saved to my TBR list. It sounds like a really intense read.

  2. Loved the Q & A review, so interesting.

  3. Awesome review. Thank you for introducing a new author to me.

  4. ...I needed a moment, before starting to write this comment.
    FANTASTIC review. My god!-- that penultimate paragraph (starts with "Tiffany McDaniel challenges her readers..."). And this: "The ending is inevitable, but it still surprised me."
    I'll be honest: I don't read nearly as much as I would like. (Possible reasons include AD[H]D; my former doctoral program wringing out every bit of passion for the arts that they could.) But THIS... I want/need to read this book. I wish I could write in such a way that inspires these kinds of words, sentiments, and reactions. This was a motivating review for me, Suze. And I will most certainly be adding this book to the very top of my Wish List.

  5. Thanks for the review sounds like a great book Thanks for sharing

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  7. Now THIS is one I'd gladly read. It sounds so well-written and moving but one that stops you in your tracks and is thought-provoking at the same time.

  8. What an excellent review about a really intriguing sounding book. Right / wrong, crime or mercy, I think I should look out for this book and Author.

  9. ive heard really great things about this! excited to read it :3

  10. ive heard really great things about this! excited to read it :3

  11. Seems an awesome read! Loved the book trailer

  12. Dandy lion wine? never have I heard of that, think i will look for it!! why have you wrote so many books that you have not published? I will be checking out the book, thank you for sharing your life with us.

  13. Great review! I love the title.

  14. It's a really intriguing premise!


  15. This sounds like a book that will definitely make you think. I like that.