‘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.’ – tiffanymcdaniel.com
After raving about her novel and jumping back and forth in correspondence with her (to rave to her about her novel whilst reading it), I’m happy to say that Tiffany McDaniel agreed to a Q&A. (She’s absolutely lovely, really). If you haven’t already, you can read my review of The Summer that Melted Everything (rated 5/5) here. Without further ado, here’s the Q&A that will help you get to know the woman behind the novel. Note: the answers have not been edited so responses are in American English.
- Where do you turn to for ideas and sparks on a particularly dull day?
Sparks are all around us from the way a storm rolls in to the way an ant crawls the ground. For me it’s just about being present and having my eyes open while I trust the creative wheel inside myself.
- What is your writing process like? Do you do a lot of research or is everything imagination based? Do you write daily or in random bursts?
I don’t outline or plan the story beforehand. For me, outlining and planning the story can cause the story to become domesticated and I like to preserve the story’s wild soul. I don’t do a lot of research. If I’m working on a novel that is incorporating real events or dates, then I’ll research enough to get a general understanding of the time frame and reality of the events, but I don’t like to bog the story down with too many facts that can distract from the story at hand. I try to write daily. With the release of The Summer that Melted Everything I’ve found that marketing the novel has meant I haven’t been able to write for the past few months, which means I have indeed felt its absence.
- When did you start writing stories?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Writing is the first thing I remember doing as a child without being told or directed to do it. There was that innate desire to create story.
- What are your ambitions and hopes for The Summer That Melted Everything and your writing career?
I didn’t realize writing was a career I could have until I was in middle school and the guidance counselor came to my class to talk to us about what we wanted to be when we got older. Writing was just so wonderful to me I didn’t associate it with work. My parents had jobs, very hard jobs that made them tired and not a lot of money. So I thought that’s what I would have to do. Have a job I didn’t like. So my hopes for The Summer that Melted Everything is that the novel does well enough that I get to have a writing career. It’s the same hope all us authors have.
- Why did you decide to set The Summer That Melted Everything in the 1980s?
When I think of the 1980s I think of neon colors, big hair, and sun-tanning by the boom-box. It just seems like a decade-long summer. I was born in 1985 so I can’t say how the decade really was in all its neon color glory, but for me there was no other time-frame to set this story. I also wanted 1984 the year to parallel George Orwell’s masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four. I don’t want to say why because I don’t want to give spoilers away, but once readers read The Summer that Melted Everything they’ll see the importance of 1984.
- You quote Milton’s Paradise Lost in your novel and I noticed that a few aspects of the novel mirrored the epic. Why did you decide to do this? Was Paradise Lost where it all began or did it seep in as you started writing?
I always title my chapters in my novels. If I’m using quotes from another work to title my chapters, in this case the epic poem “Paradise Lost”, then I always write the novel first and allow the quotes to fall in place after because I don’t want the story of the novel to be directed or influenced by the quotes. I first read Milton’s epic poem in my twenties. It was a story that I was interested in because it’s about man’s fall from grace and that has always interested me. That very story paralleled that which is in The Summer that Melted Everything. I was surprised myself how well Milton’s quotes fit the chapters. I only hope I’ve done Milton proud by including his beautiful words, which do outshine my own words by miles.
- What was the hardest thing about writing The Summer That Melted Everything?
Honestly writing for me is the easy part. It’s what I’m wired to do, so it’s almost like breathing. What’s been hard is the getting published. I wrote and completed my first novel when I was eighteen. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine. This is the narrative so many authors have. The road to publication is one of rejection and perseverance. Literary fiction, the genre I write, isn’t a genre publishers take too many chances on because they view commercial fiction as being the genre that is going to make them the most money. But I think publishers underestimate readers and their appetite for darker literary fiction.
- Who is your favourite character in The Summer That Melted Everything?
I love them all, so I can’t say my favorite character, but one of my favorite characters to write was Sal. He’s the one come to answer the invitation inviting the devil to town. Sal has a wisdom and a poetry that is always nice to write. Furthermore, he’s a contradiction and a mystery. Those types of characters are intriguing, not just for the reader, but for the author as well.
- Can you tell me about some of your favourite books?
Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. I want to be buried with this book. Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s the first Jackson novel I read. She’s a master story-teller. Other books are Markus Zusak The Book Thief, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Above the River: Collected poems of James Wright.
- Is there a book you wish you had written?
There are so many books I love, but what makes these books, and every book special is the fact that they were written by these very people. Every book has its true author. The stories and characters belong to them. There’s no book I wish I would have written, because their true author has already written it so much better than I ever could.
- What’s your favourite marketing technique for getting your book out there?
Book bloggers have been amazing at helping me get word of the novel out there. Book bloggers are very influential in the book community. Without book bloggers generously giving of their time to read and review my novel, very few people would even know the novel exists right now.
- Do you read reviews for your book? If you do, how do you deal with criticism?
With reviews it’s important not make it an obsession and remember that you can’t please everybody. You have to respect the reader’s opinion. Just stay true to your characters and true to the story, and hopefully the readers will respect that in return.
- Do you celebrate a good review/sales?
I don’t. At least I haven’t yet. But I’m not really the celebratory type. I don’t even celebrate my birthday.
- Describe The Summer That Melted Everything in four words.
The devil has arrived.
- Do you have a message you’d like to leave for readers?
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.
As far as where readers can find me, I’m not on social media, but they can jump on to my website here at www.tiffanymcdaniel.com
Readers can also connect with me directly through my website. That connection to readers is important. 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?