Theresa Braun has a Master’s degree in English literature and lives in South Florida where she has taught literature and writing for over 20 years. Traveling, ghost hunting, and all things dark are her passions. Her short stories have appeared in several horror and speculative fiction publications, including The Horror Zine and Sirens Call. Her experiences living in a haunted house in Winona, Minnesota have inspired her most recent book, Fountain Dead, released by Unnerving.
Can you tell us a little about your latest book Fountain Dead?
People often ask me what inspired my latest novel Fountain Dead. You see, when I was in middle school (eons ago), my family moved to Winona, Minnesota and into this old Victorian house that turned out to be haunted. While we stayed there, objects would move, showing up in random places. There were certain rooms that gave us the willies, making our hair stand on end while at the same time, making us feel like we were being watched. Probably the most unnerving thing is that I’d have vivid dreams about a fountain on the lot outside my window (just like the protagonist in the novel—the very ones that bubbled into the forefront of my mind during that writing workshop); only, for me, the fountain wasn’t even there. In the novel, it’s all grown over. In real life, I never found out if there was ever one on that empty lot. All I know is that I’d have these nightmares that these women were coming up out of the slime and into the house. They were both incredibly beautiful, yet swampy-looking and terrifying.
So, those experiences were the basis for the novel. Then I started to think about a fictional backstory while looking into the Native American lore in Minnesota. Consequently, I’ve used several historical events in the storyline. Characters and happenings from the 1800s haunt the present day. A supernatural romance ensues. And everything culminates into a disturbing conclusion…
What are you currently working on? When can we pre-order?
I’m currently working on a novel about a couple who get married in Greece. The protagonist’s future mother-in-law dies shortly before the wedding, sending them into mourning and shifting the family dynamic. At first it seems the father-in-law is an asshole because of his grief, but the bride finds evidence something more sinister is in the works. He threatens her life, but she can’t tell her husband what’s going on until she has proof. It’s her word against the patriarch’s. Can she trust the ghostly visitations she experiences, or the trippy hallucinations? Will the pieces of the puzzle come together in time? You’ll have to read to find out.
My goal is to finish the book in the next few weeks and submit to publishers. Fingers crossed! Hopefully, the release will be some time in 2020.
What are some subgenres that you would like to write in?
I’d definitely like to spend more time with sci-fi writing. That’s definitely in my future. I’m sure I’ll also delve into post-apocalyptic subject matter. It seems no matter how I try, though, I can’t escape an element of romance in my work. Those pesky relationships keep creeping into my storylines. Maybe one day I’ll actually write one that follows the formula with a happy ending.
Who is your biggest influence when it comes to horror?
I’d have to say that dystopian novels have made a strong impact on me. Books like 1984 and Brave New World have such powerful messages and themes that are particularly relevant today. And, I am very attracted to the entire genre of Gothic literature.As far as more recent speculative works, Kelly Link’s story The Prospectors wowed me—specifically in terms of her craft. Right now in my genre, I admire too many authors to mention here. There’s a ton of talent out there.
If you could time travel, when and where would you go? Why?
My answer changes depending on the day, but I’d love to go back to the Renaissance. I’d stalk William Shakespeare and pick his brain. And, I’d attend all the plays I could possibly see. I’m just so fascinated by him and his ability to capture such brilliant and timeless stories. The time period is also so rich with culture and the arts. I’d soak up as much of that as I could.
What are your three favorite horror books?
Handmaid’s Tale comes to mind. I recently re-read it with my high school students, and I’d forgotten how well the narrative flows in and out of past and present. The world building and the economy of words is masterful. Not to mention the satiric lens Atwood puts up to society. The point of view is relatable and emotionally gripping. I also think it’s so important to talk about feminist themes right now.
Frankenstein is one of my all-time favs. The artistry in the language and the story itself is brilliant. I can also relate to the hard-hitting themes and how she drew upon her real life experiences. Not only that, but what an inspirational backstory about Shelley paving the way for future generations of female writers.
This might be a boring answer, but Dracula is another big hit for me. I blame Stoker for my childhood fixation on vampires. The novel has all the right elements for a page turner, in my opinion.
Given the current political climate, do you think it is easier or harder to write horror stories? Why?
Oh, dear, we are going there. Lol… I think it’s both easier and harder. I’m sure some authors are avoiding any political association for lots of reasons. However, I admire all those vocal writers standing up against injustice and things like climate change. There’s so much that needs addressing, as always. That’s the easy part. But reality feels surreal at times. The writers of “South Park” have commented that it’s hard to write satire when real life is stranger than anything they can come up with. For some artists, this might be the hard part. But we also need entertainment that allows us to escape. So, the creators avoiding what’s happening in the world around us, they might be having the easiest time of it.
Could you name some women horror authors that we should be reading?
There are so many outstanding women writers in horror that I’m sure I won’t be able to do a list justice. I think Gwendolyn Kiste, J.H. Moncrieff, Catherine Cavendish, S.P. Miskowski, Lisa Mannetti, Lee Murray, Miracle Austin, Gemma Files, Caroline Kepnes, Alma Katsu, Larissa Glasser, Somer Canon, Patricia V. Davis, Caryn Larrinaga, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Kelly Link, Tananarive Due, Octavia E. Butler, and Renee Miller are doing great things right now. Like I said, I’m probably leaving some names out. But that’s how much female writers are kicking ass at the moment. Cheers to all of them!
What are your thoughts on “triggers” in horror?
That’s a great question. I think if the triggers are handled well, then they can be effective. Now obviously that would be up to the reader to decide, and not all readers will agree on any given work. There’s the rub. But, I would hate for writers to avoid taking risks or avoid topics like suicide because they feel they are off limits. However, I think that writers can sometimes use them as a crutch. For example, rape has often been used to garner sympathy for a character, or give them a reason to spur into action. That’s been overdone. But, horror is about pushing boundaries and about taking readers to uncomfortable places in their minds and emotions. I think “triggers” can be tricky and authors just need to be aware when using them.