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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The Summer That Melted Everything–A Book Review

I have been sick! So sick that I was not able to get on phone or laptop even. For almost a week, it has just been me and my radio.

In my last post, I talked about the “Devil” and the book that made me think about the devil so much. Finally, I bring to you the review of the favorite book of mine of this year: The Summer That Melted Everything.

There are very few times when you do things out courtesy, but then you feel blessed. This book was like that. The author approached me for reading the book through the blog, and I said yes because she sounded sincere. I had no idea what I would have been missing if I had not read the book. This is the debut book by the author, but I can tell you it is mind-blowing. The way it is written is poetry in itself. The words, the flow, the suspense, and the questions that book raise– you are sucked into the world the author talks about.

Book Summary

 

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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.

The book starts with a description of 1984s and then explains how Devil arrived in Breathed, Ohio. Autopsy Bliss is the educated man who writes an invitation to Devil in his religious fervor. And Devil arrives in the form of a 13 year old boy Sal. Fielding, son of Autopsy, was first to encounter Sal, and he becomes the first friend of Sal, the devil. How appearance of the devil blurred the lines between the right and wrong, good and bad, is what the story is about. The story is about demons, and how we all uses different excuses to let that demon live and breathe.

I am not a writer enough to explain the plot of the story. You have to read it to truly understand the magic and mourn the devil.

What I LOVED

  1. Questions the book asked: The first thing I loved about the book is that it made me question myself. The story is so woven that there is no hero, no villain. All are in the shades of the grey. You will left wondering what’s right and what’s wrong.
  2. Plot: The plot of the books is tightly woven. There is not even a single chapter, single line, single word wasted. Everything connects with the other. Till the end, you’ll be biting your nails to understand what actually happened.
  3. Description: The book has amazing description. In fact the author has done a huge amount of research to present this description. The 80s are so well described that I felt that author was present there– seeing the story unfolding.
  4. Writing: Amazing, amazing writing. I know I’m repeating myself, but the books is poetry in itself. The book is filled with so many insights that my mobile is marked with all the highlights. There were times when I ended up highlighting pages after pages.

 

I am sharing few of the quotes from the book which just moved my heart and made me think so much. Probably these will make you think too.

“It was a heat that didn’t just melt tangible things like ice, chocolate, Popsicles. It melted all the intangibles too. Fear, faith, anger, and those long-trusted templates of common sense. It melted lives as well, leaving futures to be slung with the dirt of the gravedigger’s shovel.”

“After I fell, I kept repeating to myself, God will forgive me. God will forgive me. Centuries of repeating this, I started to shorten it to He’ll forgive me. Then finally to one word, He’ll. He’ll. Somewhere along the way, I lost that apostrophe and now it’s only Hell. But hidden in that one word is God will forgive me. God will forgive me. That is what is behind my door, you understand. A world of no apostrophes and, therefore, no hope.”
In the amphitheater of the great beyond, we all do our own autopsies . These self-imposed autopsies are done not on the physical body of our being but on the spirit of it.
I could actually type the whole book. It will not be enough to express my fascination and love for the book.

 

Overall Views:

I cried like a baby when I reached the end of the book. I thought for days after I finished the book. I still want to question why that happened, why that happened, but in the end, the book changed me. With each sentence, each instance it showed, each question it raised, the way I see the world has changed.

I can read and reread and then reread the book. It is that beautiful of the book.

My rating: Five Stars.

Five Stars

Do, do read the book. You will not repent it. This is a promise. It’s an intense book which will make you think and make you question. And you will be left with the afterglow that an incredible book leaves.

 

 

Monday Musings on Tuesday(Wednesday)

I had a very busy day, and hence this entry is quite delayed. Today’s musing is about the devil, what we perceive as devil.Have you ever wondered who the devil truly is or what form it can take? Is the person who kills the devil, or is the true devil the person who gave the killer the arms? Is the devil the people who are of different caste/color/creed/religion, or is the devil that hatred that makes us forget who we are? I have seen people using rape as the means to destroy the homosexual nature; I see the atrocities inflicted on others– all in the name of love.

I know the answer to the question seems straightforward, but it is really not. A friend of mine, let’s call her P, once encountered  suicide. Her friend had committed the suicide. She beat herself because a day before she had talked to that friend. It has been four years since that suicide happened, and my friend still carries the guilt of it. The reason for suicide was like most of the time failed love. Now the question is who’s the devil here: my friend P (for not realising what her friend was going through), the person who committed suicide, or the cause of suicide? It is not easy to put everything in black and white, right? Each person can be devil or probably not.

I am reading a book called The Summer That Melted Everything. The book is about a boy who came to town claiming to be a devil. The book is literary fiction and has given me a lot of food for thought. I have been thinking of Devil since I started reading the book. There is a paragraph in the book that deeply resonates with me.

If the devil was going to come, I expected to see the myth of him. A demon with an asphalt shine. He’d be fury. A chill. A bad cough. Cujo at the car window, a ticket at the Creepshow booth, a leap into the depth of night. I imagined him with reptilian skin in a suit whose burning lapel set off fire alarms. His fingernails sharp as teeth and cannibals in ten different ways. Snakes on him like tar. Flies buzzing around him like an odd sense of humor. There would be hooves, horns, pitchforks. Maybe a goatee. This is what I thought he’d be. A spectacular fright. I was wrong. I had made the mistake of hearing the word devil and immediately imagined horns.

That’s what we expect devil to be. Dark. Bad. Horns (probably). A fallen angel (for some). We expect that when the devil comes there will be announcements, that everyone will know that.

The book continues with the above passage telling how wrong the protagonist of the story was.

But did you know that in Wisconsin, there is a lake, a wondrous lake, called the Devil? In Wyoming, there is a magnificent intrusion of rock named after the same. There is even a most spectacular breed of praying mantis known as the devil’s flower. And a flower, in the genus Crocosmia, known simply as Lucifer. Why, upon hearing the word devil, did I just imagine the monster? Why did I fail to see a lake? A flower growing by that lake? A mantis praying on the very top of a rock? A foolish mistake, it is, to expect the beast, because sometimes, sometimes, it is the flower’s turn to own the name.

Today, my musing is nothing more than the question: what’s devil? Is it us?  Or is it someone else?

P.S. : I am in love with the book. This is just the snippet of what I want to share. There’s a review coming up soon.