A Few Quick Questions With…Tiffany McDaniel

I’ve really enjoyed my email correspondence with Tiffany McDaniel — she’s charming, friendly, and can laugh at herself. Even if I didn’t spend a couple of days under the spell of her words, I’d want her to find success with this first publication. Here’s a lil’ Q&A we did this week. As usual, I kept it short and sweet, because I’d rather she work on her next book than take too much time with me.

1. Tell me a little about your road to publication.
It was a long road, twisty and dark with the type of rocks perfectly-sized to leave a billion wounds to scar over on my soul. Perhaps too dramatic, but I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen-years-old. I wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything, which isn’t my first written novel. So it was an eleven-year struggle, hence the dramatics. With all the rejection, I came to believe I would never be published. I thought I’d leave this world with my ghost moaning in defeat. I know I’m very fortunate to be in the position I am now, about to see my book on the shelf. It’s been moving through the publishing house for two years, so with all the years added up, I’ve been waiting thirteen long years to see one of my books on the shelf. July 26th is going to be a very special day indeed. I feel as if I might sprout wings, or something equally magical will happen. Truly I’ll probably just spend the day in the bookstore, staring at my book and smiling.
2. What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
There are so many books I love. Not necessarily in the last five years. Coming to mind, Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, The Secret History by Donna Tartt, Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. But what makes these books, and every book special is the fact that they were written by these very people. Every book has its true author. The stories and characters belong to them. There’s no book I wish I would have written, because their true author has already written it so much better than I ever could.
3. I know that most authors would say that names of characters are important — but yours seem more important than usual, and steeped in meaning. Can you talk a little about your naming process? Alvernine, Grand, Dresden, Fielding — all are great. Be as general as you want, except for Autopsy, I’ve got to know, beyond the meaning — why name someone that?
For me, my characters are real people. These are their true names. They are their names long before I’ve put them down on paper. My job as the author is to listen to the characters. In the case of Autopsy’s name, I had seen the word “autopsy” that day I was trying to know him. I really do feel like these are the hints to me from the characters. Autopsy was telling me his name. As they all do. I just have to listen. I always say I’m surprised myself how the story comes out. That’s true. So when Autopsy was typed there on the page, I didn’t yet know how massive a theme that was going to be in the novel. I had yet to see for myself . . .
4. I don’t want to ask where you get your ideas, but how did you get to the point where you said, “You know what I want to write about? Satan’s summer vacation.”
First off, I love that last line of yours: “Satan’s summer vacation.” Perfect.

I always say my ideas come from the elements that make me. That somewhere in the chaotic clouds swirling in my atmosphere to the calm rivers coursing down my soul, there exists the source of my ideas. As it exists for every author. That’s a rather intense answer. But creativity is intense. It’s chaos and order, a big bang and a small tap. All these things turning, turning, until the wheel is rolling, the story rolling with it, getting to the point when the story is ready to come out.

5. I know you’re neck deep (at least) in promotion for this book, but what’s next for Tiffany McDaniel?
I have eight completed novels. I’m currently working on my ninth. The novel I’m hoping to follow The Summer that Melted Everything up with is When Lions Stood as Men. It’s the story of a Jewish brother and sister who escape Nazi Germany, flee across the Atlantic Ocean and end up in my land of Ohio. While here they create their own camp of judgment where they serve as both the guards and the prisoners. It’s a story about surviving guilt, love, and the time when lions did indeed once stand as men.
Thanks so much for your time, and I hope your launch week meets with a lot of success.
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