The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel. Advance Reader Copy (eARC) from the author included. No affiliate links used. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
The Summer that Melted Everything is an incredible piece of literary fiction. That it is a debut novel makes it even more so. Tiffany McDaniel’s writing is evocative, complex and full of confidence.
The summer of 1984 brings an intense heat wave to Breathed, Ohio. It also brings the devil. Things will never be the same again. Fielding Bliss has never forgotten that summer and it is through his eyes that we learn what happened. The novel alternates between 1984 and an unspecified year in the future.
The Summer that Melted Everything is a thought-provoking novel that deals with religion, racism, homophobia and mob mentality amongst other things. My words cannot do it justice, but it’s a novel I’ll be recommending for a long time to come. Seriously, you need to read it.
Thanks to Tiffany for taking the time to answer my questions.
Although it jumps timeline, The Summer that Melted Everything is primarily set in 1984. What was it about that year that appealed to you?
When I was thinking of the time frame in which to set the novel, I immediately thought of the 1980s. When I think of that decade, I think of the neon colors, the big hair, and the big ambitions. It reminds me of a decade long summer, so I thought it’d make a great setting for this hot summer that the characters experience. I also wanted it early enough in the 1980s that AIDS was casting its shadow and leading to lots of fear and unanswered questions. 1984 in particular appealed to me because of the parallels I draw to George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Both his novel and my novel tackle that question of herd mentality and the importance of preserving individual thought. Though my novel takes place in 1984, it deals with issues that are relevant today, and fits into the conversation about our current societal and political climate.
Each chapter starts with a quote from Paradise Lost, John Milton’s epic poem about Adam and Eve’s expulsion from The Garden of Eden. Did you decide to include these as you were writing the novel or did they come afterwards?
I always like to title my chapters in my novels and I always title them after the novel is written because I don’t want an outside work determining the course of that particular chapter. I want the chapters to determine the titles. When I was thinking of the chapter titles for The Summer that Melted Everything, I was reminded of Milton’s epic poem. It is a poem that has always interested me because of the battle of good v. evil. For the characters in my novel, many of them are dealing with the loss of their particular paradise. It’s about falling in more ways than one. I only hope I’ve done Milton proud by using his beautiful words.
Writing is a solitary process. Do you have a routine so that you don’t get completely lost in the world(s) you’re creating?
I’m disorganized by nature, so I don’t have a routine that I stick to. As far as my process, I never outline. I think planning a story too much domesticates it in a way, and I like to preserve the story’s wild soul. Not having a routine works for my creative process. To belong to these worlds and be in the company of these characters keeps writing from ever being truly lonely and makes it so that getting lost in these worlds becomes a true joy.
You are also a poet, playwright, screenwriter and artist. When you have an idea, do you know immediately which medium it belongs in?
I like keeping a story very fluid, able to cross the different mediums. When I write a poem, I see a novel in it. When I write a novel, I can see a variation of the story being told in the shorter prose of a poem. As far as art, I’ve always illustrated my stories since I was a child, and even now I paint the characters and scenes from my novels. I also love film, so I like taking my novels and adapting them into screenplays. I like bringing an idea to life by using all these different mediums in ways that best serves the story.
I love hearing what people are passionate about reading, even if they can’t narrow it down to a favourite. Which book do you wish you could thrust into the arms of strangers and demand they read it immediately?
I have my favorite books like Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, and others like We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, but a book that I think has a universal appeal and a really wonderful message is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Yes, it’s a children’s book, but I think it can be interpreted in so many ways and its message is one that adults can appreciate on a deeper level.
The Summer that Melted Everything is published by Scribe in UK and St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan US, in the US. It is available in hardback and ebook format.