Interview with Ms. Tiffany: Author of Summer that Melted Everything

 

 

 

recite-1yp8op.pngHave you ever fangirled over a book or a show? What if you are given a chance to talk to the creator of those pieces? Sounds like heaven, right? That’s the opportunity I got. You people already know I am in love like crazy with the book called The Summer That Melted Everything. I even wrote a review here: The Summer That Melted Everything.

And today I am presenting you the reply to all those questions that boggled my mind when I read the book. I just wanted to tie the author and let her answer my questions know so many things about how and why someone thought this that I decided to grab the chance I was offered to do this interview.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, here I present Ms. Tiffany McDaniel in an interview format (with comments from me in blue, of course. I have to have the last word.:-P)

Hey Ms. Tiffany.

First of all, many many thanks for approaching for the review of your book, The Summer that Melted Everything. Honestly speaking, I was pleasantly surprised by the book. I had not expected it to be so gripping, so deep, and so awesome.  I have quite a lot of questions to ask you, but I will try to stick to essential ones.

  • Can you tell me something about yourself, especially your age? I know it is not a polite question, but since I saw you describing the summer of 84 I am curious to know whether you saw that summer first hand or not?

Let me first thank you for the beautiful opening.  I’m so happy you enjoyed your time with the novel, and I can’t thank you enough for taking a chance on it, and also doing this interview with me.  To answer your question, I was born in 1985, so I wasn’t too aware of the 1980s.  For me, the 1980s seem like a decade-long summer with its neon colors, big hair, and even bigger ambitions.  I didn’t really consider another time period for this novel, because the summer in the novel and the 1980s just seemed like such a natural fit.

(Can you believe she is as old as me? I had imagined an old woman who had seen everything, but she is just same age as me.)

  • Another thing I wondered throughout the book was do you really hate Summer? I personally do so. It’s my least favorite season, rain being the best. Is that the case for you too? Is that why you connected the summer with the Devil?

I love summer.  I’m also a big gardener, so summer brings me the flowers, fruit, and vegetables.  The reason I had the devil arrive in the summer, is because I associate the devil with heat.  Hell is said to be very hot, so I wanted to create that atmosphere to coincide with the devil’s arrival.  I wanted it hot enough to melt everything.

(I will never enter the Hell! It is sufficiently hot in my city anyway. :-P)

  • You have taken quite a different view of Devil. What prompted such a view? Do you truly believe that everyone in the world is a devil of some kind?

 

I didn’t want to write about the stereotypical devil of red flesh, horns, cloven feet, and a pitchfork.  That devil is one we are all familiar with and is easily picked out of the crowd.  In fact he’s almost a cartoon at this point the way that image as been used over time.  I wanted to present a devil that causes us to ask deeper questions about each other and about our own selves.

(If you don’t know how she defined Devil, read this post where I shared some quotes.)

 

  • You have touched quite a lot of topics in your novel—the homosexuality when it was new, the fear of AIDS when it was discovered, the prejudice towards the black—are these topics there because you wanted a conflict in the story? Or have you been associated with them in some way—through friends, family or personally?

I didn’t set out to write a story about racism, homosexuality, AIDS.  These things developed as the characters did.  I never outline or plan a story before I write it.  It really does evolve with each new word and page I write.  I will say anytime you write about the 1980s, you almost have to write about AIDS, because the disease and that decade go hand-in-hand, unfortunately.  It was a time that the disease was introduced into our lives, into our fears.  It changed how we had sex, how we viewed it, and how we feared it even, which fear is a major theme within the novel and can be the underlying tone of any of these issues.

(I still cannot believe I never thought of AIDS in those time, the kind of influence the discovery would have had that time.)

  • I was impressed by the research and details you have incorporated in the story. Can you tell me how long did it take you to finish the research and the whole story, and how you went about it?

I don’t do a lot of research.  I don’t want the story to be too factually based.  So I just do enough research for my novels so that I have a general understanding of the topic I’m discussing.  In the case of The Summer that Melted Everything, I researched the 1980s.  The major events that happened that decade to the music people were listening to and what clothing they were wearing.  I also of course researched AIDS and the amount of information people had of the disease at that time.  I didn’t spend long on research.  A day at the most.  It took me a month to write the novel.  On average it takes me a month to write a new novel.  I don’t like the story to sit for too long.  I like to get its beginning, middle, and end down on the page as soon as I can.

(A month to write a new novel? :-O. I don’t even finish a story in that little of time!)

  • This is your first book, and you selected literary fiction as your genre. Were you afraid to try it?

While The Summer that Melted Everything is my debut and my first published novel, it’s actually the fifth or sixth novel I’ve written.  I wrote 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 can be heartbreaking and discouraging.  For me it was eleven long years of rejection and fear I’d never be published.  In terms of the genre of literary fiction, it’s just always been the genre I write.  I write other things like poetry and plays, but the overall tone of my fiction has been literary.

(I wish I could be as talented as you, Ms. Tiffany.)

  • And this is a serious question. I cried a lot when I read the book. Some of the deaths, the scene, are like forever imprinted on my mind. Is that the case with you too? Did it hurt you to kill some of the characters?

I feel for the characters but as the author it’s also my job to distinguish between being a reader of the story myself and being the author.  It’s my job to not let my emotions interfere with the characters and their emotions.  If a character dies, it’s because that is the truth of the character.  I can be sad about it, but I can’t let that sadness distract me from the task at hand, which is to tell the story.

(Better you than me. If I had written that book, my family would have dubbed me crazy because of all the crying. The train people were looking at me when I reached end because of my relentless sobbing.)

  • Which character of the book did you associate with the most and why?

 

I don’t know if there a character I identified with the most, just because I love them all.  I do really love Grand.  He’s one of those characters that is so easy to fall in love with because he’s everything we want in a friend, a brother, and in our own selves.

(I loved him too. I want a big brother like him.)

  • The book has lot many impressive sentences, and the words which speak like poetry to me. Are you a poet, by any chance?

I am.  I love poetry, and am currently working on my first full-length collection.  I can’t live without poetry.

( Ha! I knew we were soul-sisters. I breathe poetry too.)

  • Who are the writers who have influenced and shaped your writing?

I can’t say there’s any one author who has shaped my writing, as I’ve been writing since I was a kid and writing a lot by the time I read literary heavyweights.  But I will say some of my favorite authors are Shirley Jackson, Donna Tartt, Ray Bradbury, Harper Lee, Poet James Wright, Markus Zusak, Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro.

(Good List!)

  • Any advice for the new writers working on their debut book?

To never give up.  Like I said, the road to publication can be painful.  It can be discouraging.  It was to me at least.  It took me eleven years to get a contract.  I wanted to give up, but I didn’t and that’s the advice I have for those still on the journey.  Never give up and know that the length of time it takes to get published is not reflective of your talent.  It’s just so hard to get a foot in the publishing door.  Don’t expect it to happen overnight, and don’t get discouraged.

(All writers reading this blogpost, hope you read this: Don’t give up.)

  • Last Question, what are your plans of the future? To bask in the success of the book, or is your new book already outlined and waiting for you to pick up the keyboard?

Writing the book is the easy part.  Now it’s about getting people aware the book even exists.  Marketing is a full-time job, and something I didn’t know I would be expected to do as the author.  So really there’s no time to bask in the realization I am now a published author.  I have to make sure the book is out there and that it does good or it’s harder to get a second book.  I will say the novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is titled, When Lions Stood as Men.  It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, cross the Atlantic Ocean, and end up in my land of Ohio.  Struggling with the guilt of surviving the Holocaust, they create their own camp of judgment.  Being both the guards and the prisoners, they punish themselves not only for surviving, but for the sins they know they cannot help but commit.

(I’m already looking forward to it).

Thank you again for the time you spent in answering these questions, and for the time you spent on building the beautiful book. With the book, you have earned one fan in me. Hopefully the book will be a big success for you. Wish you the very best, Ms. Tiffany.

P.S.: If you have not yet, check out the website of Ms. Tiffany who is also a painter. She has the paintings of the scenes of the novel on her website. I haven’t asked her about those paintings, but they truly are awesome. 

P.P.S.: I do not know the author personally. I had even forgone the book choice in NetGalley because I thought literary fiction will not be my genre. But then I read the book, and I learnt my lesson.

Lesson learnt: Good fiction is good fiction. Genre doesn’t matter. 

P.P.P.S: This does not mean that there will be many future interviews. I am as picky about them as I am about the five stars that I give to a book. 

 

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