Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Interview with Tiffany McDaniel, Author of The Summer That Melted Everything + Giveaway (US/Can only)

I'd like to welcome Tiffany McDaniel to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of The Summer That Melted Everything from St. Martin's Press!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Tiffany! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

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.

It's my pleasure! It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hits shelves today:

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 temperature 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 wrestle with their own personal demons, a fanatic drives the town to the brink of a catastrophe that will change this sleepy Ohio backwater forever.

Describe The Summer That Melted Everything in six words (or less!).

The devil comes to town.

How did you arrive at writing literary fiction? Are there any other genres you’d like to try your hand at, or any you want to stay away from?

I never planned on writing in a specific genre. I just wrote what was in my head and one of the first agents I pitched to said I was literary fiction. I think what sets my literary fiction apart from other literary fiction is that there’s always the hook like you’d find in commercial fiction. For example in The Summer that Melted Everything, there’s the question of what happens to not just the individual but the community as a whole when the devil comes to town. Characters and plot are equally important to me, so while literary fiction explores the characters more in depth than commercial fiction, I also know you have to have a strong plot to keep readers turning the page.

I do write in other styles. I write poetry, plays for the stage and screen. I’d also love to write a really good murder mystery, though I’m no Agatha Christie. I’d also love to write a series of books in the vein of sci-fi or just star-exploration.

What was your inspiration for the book?

I always say I’m inspired by the characters themselves. It’s very much their story and I just hope I’ve written for them their best truth.

As a huge fan of first lines, I'd love to hear the first line of The Summer That Melted Everything. Can you give us a brief commentary on it?

I am also a great lover of first lines. When I write the first line, I always hope it’s a line that grabs the reader right in. The first line in The Summer that Melted Everything is:

The heat came with the devil.
I always start writing a new novel with two things: The title and the first line. These two things always determine the course of the entire novel for me, so when I wrote this first line, it really determined the devil was coming and it was going to hell-hot.

Tell us about your road to publication, such as how you first queried, unexpected challenges, and things you picked up along the way.

I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen. I didn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything, which was my fifth or sixth novel, but only second novel to be submitted to editors after my first novel. So it was eleven years of rejection and fear I’d never be published. Getting published, especially when you’re a female literary fiction author, is tough and it’s a road paved with heartache and tears, at least for me. I feel very fortunate to be in the position I am of getting a book published and I definitely feel for those authors who are still on the journey. What I picked up along the journey to publication is to never give up; that’s my advice to those still on the journey to publication: Never give up.

Which character from The Summer That Melted Everything was most difficult to write?

I didn’t find any of the characters really difficult to write. I will say Sal took some balancing because he arrives as a thirteen year old boy, but presents himself as the devil. So I had to find that balance of the kid in him while also maintaining the wisdom of a fallen angel. He was an incredibly interesting and fun character to write because of his supposedly being Lucifer. How many times does one get to write dialogue for the devil? After writing this character, I found myself wondering, what would the real devil think of this character?

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Tiffany's random favorites, her goals as a writer, and what makes The Summer That Melted Everything stand out as a book from all the rest. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of The Summer That Melted Everything, so you don't want to miss that either!

- - - - - - - - - - -

Some randomness...

Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark, milk, white, coffee-flavored, the kind with nuts or berries inside?? I love chocolate in general, but I have a soft spot for chocolate covered caramels. Especially when they come in the Russell Stover heart box because my dad used to get us all that every Valentine’s Day when we were growing up.

Favorite quote or passage from the book? I don’t know which is my absolute favorite, but here’s one of them:
All love leads to cannibalism. I know that now. Sooner or later, our hearts will devour, if not the object of our affections, our very selves. Teeth are the heart’s miracle. That a mouth should burst forth on that organ without throat and crave another’s flesh, another’s heart, is nothing short of a miracle.

Currently reading?  Psycho by Robert Bloch, the novel that was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s fear classic. Sometimes you just get in the mood to read about some good ol’ fashioned murder and mayhem.

Favorite vegetable? (yes, you have to pick one). If we’re talking about eating, then one of my favorite vegetables is potato because you can do so much with it. Fry it, scallop it, bake it. It’s just one of those foods that is comforting and reminds me of home. However if we’re talking about a favorite vegetable in general, I’d say the pumpkin. I love seeing it on the vine in the autumn. It signals cool, crisp air and Halloween time, which is one of my favorite times of all. I’m a Sanderson sister at heart. All you Hocus Pocus fans will understand.

Biggest celebrity crush? I don’t tend to fall for the celebrity themselves, but rather the character they play. One of my biggest would be Indiana Jones. Intelligent, funny, and adventurous is right up my alley. Plus, I love archaeology. I’m still hoping to dig up something ancient in my backyard.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes The Summer That Melted Everything stand out from the rest?

You’re right that there are some really fantastic books out there. I’d say one of the things that makes The Summer that Melted Everything stand out is the uniqueness of the story line. A man decides to one day put an invitation in the newspaper inviting the devil to town. The one that comes to answer the invitation is a thirteen-year-old boy who arrives with a hell-hot heat wave. The story is one of those page-turning ones that you just have to find out what happens in the end to these people and this town. Plus you want to find out everything that did indeed melt in the sun of that summer.

What's the most interesting comment you've received about your writing?

That The Summer that Melted Everything is unforgettable. But I’ll also say, one of my favorite authors is Shirley Jackson, so when I received this review from author Donald Ray Pollock, PEN/Robert Bingham-award winning author of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time, I was really happy. Here’s what he said: “Tiffany McDaniel's astounding and heartbreaking The Summer That Melted Everything reads as if Carson McCullers and Shirley Jackson got together with Nathaniel Hawthorne in some celestial backwater and decided to write the first truly great gothic coming-of-age novel of the twenty-first century.”

Now that's a review to be proud of. What is the message in The Summer That Melted Everything that you want readers to grasp?

That family is more than a house structure and the people inside are more than the titles we give them of father, mother, son, brother. We should always strive to know and understand them and that goes for the community as a whole. Just because someone is called the devil doesn't mean they are the devil. It's up to us to figure it out for ourselves.

What are your goals as a writer?

To be someone’s favorite author.

What’s next for you?

I’m hoping to follow my debut up with my newest novel, When Lions Stood as Men. It’s a story about a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany. They cross the Atlantic and end up in Ohio where they create their own prison as they try to survivor their guilt and try to survive each other.

That sounds exciting, congrats! I can't wait! Where can you be found on the web?

Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you'd like to ask our readers?

If there was a summer that was so hot it was indeed melting everything, and I mean everything, what would you like to save from not melting and why?

It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Tiffany! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!


Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Summer That Melted Everything—woohoo! To enter, all you have to do is answer Tiffany's question in the comments below:
If there was a summer that was so hot it was indeed melting everything, and I mean everything, what would you like to save from not melting and why?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Tiffany and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the author—a huge thank you to the lovely Tiffany McDaniel!
Giveaway ends August 9th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!