Sunday, 19 March 2017

An Interview with Tiffany McDaniel

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 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.

Tiffany McDaniel is and author, poet and artist who has recently published her first novel 'The Summer that Melted Everything', the winner of the Guardian's Not the Booker Prize in 2016. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Tiffany as well as to read her book, and I can safely say that I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences! I would definitely recommend reading 'The Summer that Melted Everything', it's such a good summer read if you're not into airy romances like me- it's dark and thoroughly absorbing. Anyway, here is my interview with Tiffany, you can find out more about her and her book here!

Tiffany McDaniel

Have you always wanted to become an author? What else did you want to be when you were younger?

Writing is the first thing I remember doing as a kid without being told to do so.  To take these things that were in my head and write them down as story.  I knew I would live with story when I would look at things whether it be a simple fork or a glass of milk or a blade of grass, and I realized I saw a story and the opportunity for imagination behind each thing.  I’ve had other interests too.  I’ve always loved digging in the dirt, imagining finding an artifact of a lost world.  Or looking up at the stars and imagining being the captain of a rocket ship headed to Mars.  But the great thing about writing is that I can be an archaeologist, an astronaut, a diver of the oceans deep.  That’s what I love about writing.  It takes you to the stars and back.   

What inspired 'The Summer that Melted Everything?'

The Summer that Melted Everything started first as a title.  It was one of those Ohio summers that was very hot and I felt like I was melting.  I always start writing a new novel with the title and the first line.  These two things lead the entire rest of the story.  For me, the stories just exist in my head, so I’d say the inspiration comes from within.  From the characters themselves, and from the story itself. 

Did you come across any challenges when writing 'The Summer that Melted Everything' that you didn't expect?

I didn’t.  I had a lot of joy writing this novel.  I wanted to be right there with the characters.  Live this summer with them, even if that meant to melt with them. 

Do you find that your art helps/inspires your writing? How or how not?

I’ve always illustrated my stories since I was a kid, and so my art has been something that has lived alongside my writing with the art evolving from pencil to paint, and my writing evolving from poetry and short stories to novels.  Art and writing each bring something different to my life, and to the story.      

Who is your favourite character that you have created?

It’s always hard to say my favorite character, because I love them all.  But one of my favorite characters to write in The Summer that Melted Everything was Grand.  He was someone I loved spending time with on the page.  Grand’s struggle with identity is something I think we all face at some point in our lives.  Who we are and who we want to be.    

How do you go about starting a writing project? Do you plan everything or let it flow?

I hate outlines and I never plan a story out before writing it.  I think that domesticates the story in a way, and I want to preserve the story’s wild self.  For me, the best way to write is to allow the story to evolve with each new word and page.  As the author, it’s important to get out of the story’s way and let it present its truth to you. 

Who is your favourite author and why?

I have a few, but one of my favorite authors is Ray Bradbury.  His writing is beautiful.  I think authors become our favorites because of the feeling we have when reading them.  Bradbury just comforts me, as does Agatha Christie and Shirley Jackson.    

What was your favourite part of writing and publishing 'The Summer that Melted Everything?

My favorite part would be seeing the book finally released.  On average, it takes two years to move a book through a publishing house, so I was ready to see the book out in the world.

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

My advice would be to never give up.  I wrote my first novel when I was 18, and wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was 29 for The Summer that Melted Everything, which is my first published novel but my fifth or sixth novel written.  It was a long eleven year journey to publication full of rejection and perseverance.  I write literary fiction, and it’s a hard genre to get a publisher to take a chance on.  My stories are often dark, which I think adds to the struggle of getting published.  All told I waited 13 years to see one of my novels on the shelf.  If I had given up, I’d not have a book on the shelf right now.  So to every author out there hoping for publication, don’t be discouraged by the struggle.  Be emboldened by it.    

Are you currently working on anything new?

I am.  I also have eight completed novels.  I hope to compile my first poetry collection down the road as well.  Currently I’ve returned to that first novel I wrote, which is a story inspired by my mother’s life growing up in southern Ohio.  It feels like a good time to return to this story.

Again, do have a look at The Summer that Melted Everything, it's such a good book! If you're interested, you can buy it here!

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