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.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
A. I’m an Ohio poet and novelist who wishes I could ride the back of Moby Dick across the great Atlantic, make a web with Charlotte, and shoot the breeze (but no mockingbirds) with Atticus Finch.
Q. When did you first decide to write?
A. As a child, writing was the first thing I remember doing without being told to do so. Without writing, I’m lost. I can’t find my way home to infinity. I wouldn’t realize writing was a profession I could have until I was in middle school and the guidance counselor came to my class to talk to us about what we wanted to be when we got older. Writing was just so wonderful to me I didn’t think you could get paid to do it. My parents had jobs, very hard jobs that made them tired and not a lot of money. So I thought that’s what I would have to do. Have a job I didn’t like. Though it took me eleven long years to get a publishing contract, realizing I could have writing as a career, was like being told I could pocket all the stars in the night sky and have light with me forever.
Q. Has it been a difficult journey to publication for you?
A. It has been a very difficult journey, as it is for most authors. I won’t take away from other authors and their struggles. I will say the genre I write, which is literary fiction, is really hard to get publishers to take a chance on because it is not as financially returnable as commercial or genre fiction. Especially when you write darker material, like I do. For me, it was eleven years of rejection. Those eleven years was like being in an abyss. I feel for those authors still on the journey to publication. To them I say never give up. Stand up when rejection knocks you down, and fight. Fight for your dream of being a published author. It will happen for you one day. Believe that your name is meant to be on a book and never lose faith that it will be.
Q. What is your novel about?
The Summer that Melted Everything is about an eighty-four-year-old man named Fielding Bliss, who is looking back on his life during one summer in 1984 when he was thirteen-years-old and his father, Autopsy Bliss, invited the devil to their small town called Breathed, Ohio. Who answers the invitation ends up being a boy in overalls and bruises. This boy’s arrival comes the first day of a hell-hot heat-wave that carries through the entire course of the summer. This is not just a story about the heat, but a story of everything that melted in that heat. Family, friendships, innocence, and even lives.
Q. Is your book based on personal experiences?
A. While the story itself is not based on personal experience, the landscape certainly is. The story takes place in the fictional town of Breathed, Ohio, which is a landscape very much reflective of my childhood summers and school-year weekends spent in southern Ohio, where the hills speak, the creek paces in its own good time, and the roads are dirt-laid and grass-lined. That wildflower song, front porch chatter, and southern twang has shaped me as a writer. Having spent my childhood summers down-home was like being one of the rolling hills, forever rooted in rust and dirt and moon-shine magic.
Q. Do you have anything you would like to say to readers? And where can readers find you?
A. I would like to say to readers that without you, there are no novelists to be had. Readers give meaning to an author’s words. So if you like a book, tell everyone you know. Be that book’s champion because if you do, you’re being a champion for the author herself. My only hope is that readers like what I’ve written. That they can count on me to deliver a story that is worth both their time and their hard-earned money. Nothing would make me happier than to know a reader has finished one of my books with the pleasure of having read it. That they can close the book and say, “Hey, that’s a pretty good story. I’m really glad I read it.”
As far as where readers can find me, I’m not on social media, but they can jump on to my website at www.tiffanymcdaniel.com
Readers can also connect with me directly through my website. That connection to readers is very important to me. As I’ve said, they’re the ones who determine an author’s entire career. How can I not give them some of my time, when they’ve given me some of their time reading my book?
Of Man’s first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World
—MILTON, PARADISE LOST 1:1–3
THE HEAT CAME with the devil. It was the summer of 1984, and while the devil had been invited, the heat had not. It should’ve been expected, though. Heat is, after all, the devil’s name, and when’s the last time you left home without yours?
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.
I was thirteen when it all happened. An age that saw me both overwhelmed and altered by life in a way I’d never been before. I haven’t been thirteen in a long time. If I were a man who still celebrated his birthday, there would be eighty-four flames flickering above the cake, above this life and its frightening genius, its inescapable tragedy, its summer of teeth that opened wide and consumed the little universe we called Breathed, Ohio.
Christy is a superhero who spends her days saving the lives of those who live in her small town and her nights with a book in her hands. Okay, a superhero may be a bit of a stretch, she's just a nurse who loves to read.