Theresa Braun was an author unknown to me prior to my receiving a review request. Dead Over Heels was the story, and I admit when I read the description I had some trepidation. The word romance, or perhaps it was romantic, came into play and so rarely does romance fit well within the dark and foggy landscape reviewed within Unnerving. However, it was short, and there was another word, one that usually grabs me by the whiskers and drags me to the pages: haunted.
Dead Over Heels is a tale of haunting and anything romantic is secondary. Romance is something characters can forego when the ghouls seep into the scheme. In fact, this story has little to do with romance. It’s fast, fun, and has a truly wicked twist. Impressive.
“I think I came out of the womb interested in the supernatural. It also helped that my parents were open to it as well. They would tell me ghost stories or my dad would talk about the few times he’s encountered UFOs. I remember writing an eighth grade paper on aliens and citing my father in it –I think I got an 'A', if memory serves me. One of my favorite cartoons as a kid was Scooby Doo. I couldn’t wait to get home from school to watch that. Nancy Drew books (especially the supernatural ones) were also on my radar back then. As I got older, I read a lot of dark, paranormal young adult books and encyclopaedias on the occult. Almost anything with a spooky cover was in my hands,” said Braun.
It seems Theresa’s love for the written world blossomed, not only in writing, but in her day-career as well. Every author has their way of juggling the craft.
“I’ve trained myself to get up early before work, which is by 5:00 a.m.–if I’m really ambitious, 4:00. That’s when I either write or work on marketing and networking. I go off to teach high school English in public school where I try to keep young minds awake. If I have any brain cells left at the end of the day, I might write some more or just chill with my cats and watch Netflix. A couple of times during the workweek I meet up with friends or talk to my author buddies. We encourage each other to make sure we aren’t using writer’s block–or any other number of things–as an excuse for not creating or editing. The weekends are filled with more writing and reading, going to the movies, a concert, a local bar to unwind, or whatever strikes my mood," said Braun.
Many authors of dark literature and horror have a similar figurehead goal and inspirational icon. This is something Braun and so many authors I interview have in common.
“I’d have to say Stephen King is one of my biggest inspirations. His work ethic and the number of books he’s been able to complete is phenomenal–and they are so varied in subject and style. And, one of my favorite things about him is that he admits to throwing away more text than he’s ever written. So, when I find myself chopping whole sections of story, I can say to myself, 'Well, King does it. So can I.' And then I press the delete button and watch it disappear," said Braun.
Of course, admiration and appreciation can only go so far.
“I’m lucky to have some authors in my circle who I really admire.
“As far as where I find inspiration for what I write, lots of the time I’ll get something that pops into my head and I write it down and expand on it later. Or, I’ll hear something on the radio or the news and it will spark my interest. And, on occasion, I have some pretty twisted dreams that can be used as material.
“An almost equal number of my pieces take place in the teenage years as take place in adult years. Both have their advantages and disadvantages when considering viewpoint. I have to say, though, that I find the teenage years to be the most frightening and traumatic. You don’t really know who you are yet, there are all these conflicting feelings that you don’t know what to do with, and there is this pressure to start thinking about what to do with your life. One of my therapist friends says that being a teenager is worse than having multiple personality disorder. I have to agree. You couldn’t pay me enough money to be a teen again, unless, of course I could go back with what I know now,” said Braun.
Dead Over Heels is a novelette of excellent weighting and proportion. Frith Books is the publisher, a group that was new to me, as far as reading their material goes.
“I have really appreciated my experience with them (Frith). From the moment they accepted my story for publication, there was a constant professional and friendly line of communication. The staff editor Anna Reith, who is also a writer herself, is amazing. She completely understood what I was doing with the story and helped me to iron out a couple of kinks. Her ability to pay attention to minor details really is exceptional. And, the final product was well-done. I would work with them again in a heartbeat,” said Braun.
The story itself takes place over a warm winter. A pair of mostly luckless singles get together through an internet dating site that holds a particular glitch that bands these two together after one side had already given up on the notion of profile searches.
“I definitely thought about anchoring the story in a real spot. Since I’d worked downtown Ft. Lauderdale when I was a teen, and I’ve been on the ghost tour of the area, I thought that was a great place to start. There’s a bit of me in the character of Veronica, especially when it comes to her dating experience. I always joke that it can be a horror in itself. At one point, I even blogged about it. Sebastian and the experiences both characters have with their parents are fictionalized. However, I wanted the couple’s past to be terrible, yet believable. The only thing that requires some suspension of disbelief is that they would meet in the first place, since their paths are so intertwined. But, I’ve heard all kinds of stories about chance in real life; so, for me, it’s totally possible,” said Braun.
Braun has written one novel to date, but considers it “therapy” and “it really needs another serious edit.” Focussed on the steps, Braun looks to future success from the determination and work ethic involved in the current.
“I’m not going to give up on my passion and dream. They say that the moment you’re about to give up is when you’re about to hit the tipping point. I’d be excited if a major publisher picked up some of my work. And, my biggest goal is for one of my stories to be adapted into a television show or movie. It doesn’t have to be on the big screen, but I think it would be such an honor and a thrill.
“One of the things I’m most excited about, aside from doing more writing, is that I’m going to Stoker Con this year. It’s on the haunted Queen Mary and all kinds of authors will be there. I’ll also get to see some of my friends that I met in Transylvania on a horror writers’ workshop a couple of years ago. I’m counting the days. In my personal life, I’ll also be getting back out there in the dating pool again. Perhaps that will give me some more horror material.
“One of my goals is to become a member of the HWA, and to just pump out as many stories as I possibly can. If I set a number, I feel like that will stress me out and be counter-productive. However, I have at least three stories I’d like to finish. Bigger goals like completing a novel will be put off for at least another year–unless something I’m working on just so happens to blossom into a longer work,” said Braun.
Understanding the world of indie publishing isn’t difficult, but it takes effort, perseverance, and tools aside from writing to stand out. Braun, aside from teaching and writing, is an editor.
“It’s really a thrill to be able to help someone with a story. I do editing, but very selectively. At the moment, I have been mostly taking on clients that I know personally. The only reason for that is I try to keep an eye on the time I need to set aside for my own writing and creativity,” said Braun.
Writing, though freeing and expressive, can also hold an author hostage for weighty lumps of time. Moving forward, Braun looks to topics she hasn’t yet covered in her work.
“I’m really interested in the horrors that modern technology causes. I’d really like to explore those ideas more. That’s one of the reasons that I love the series Black Mirror so much because the show tackles what new innovations are doing to us. I could see myself writing a horror story that is a sci-fi crossover. I’m fascinated by lots of topics–too many to choose from,” said Braun.
So far, Braun has a few credits for shorts and the standalone from Frith. If Dead Over Heels is any indication, Theresa Braun will appear on more tables of contents pages and cover. I would like to thank her for answering my emails and sending me the story to review.