Hello, and welcome to our latest series of author interviews. The long anticipated anthology "Altered Europa" will be coming out April 2, 2017 (ORDER YOUR COPYHERE)! In preparation for this grand release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.
Today I'm interviewing Murray Braun, who contributed Voyage.
MTI: Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
MURRAY BRAUN: I practiced medicine for 29 years as a chid neurologist because it was intellectually stimulating. As an academic I wrote several papers on my research and articles in my field.
Six years into early retirement, I began to write short stories, attended workshops and classes at Grubb Street Writers, Boston, and worked with an editor (“doctoring”) online from Gotham Writers Workshop in NYC.
MTI: Now, the next question I generally ask new contributors is this; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
MB: I was compelled to write fiction as a second generation Holocaust survivor, describing the experience of growing up in America after immigrating from Austria where I was born in a DP camp. My favorite story to write turned out to be alternate history, although like most fiction writers I write semi-autobiographical pieces.
MTI: If you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?
MB: If I had to pick one author who influenced or inspired me, it would be Philip Roth, an exemplary writer of the American Jewish experience in the 20th century. His 2004 “The Plot Against America” is as alternate as history can get.
MTI: Your story, Voyage., appears in Altered Europa, an anthology devoted to alternate history and altered reality. Tell us a little bit more about this contribution, particularly, how does it deviate from known history?
MB: “Voyage” was conceived after months of research on the life of Columbus. It presents the discrepancies in his motives to sail to India at the time of the Inquisition, his navigational skills, and his apparent religiosity — all of which could be said to be alternate.
MTI: If you could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an "altered" world, what would you choose to change?
MB: If I could go back to any point in time and change any historical event to create an “altered” world, it would be the rise of Nazism and its aftermath.
MTI: A truly popular point of divergence. For further pondering, if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of you, would you dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side?
MB: Like in “Alice in Wonderland,” if a wormhole leading to an alternate reality suddenly appeared in front of me, I would definitely dare to take the plunge and discover what awaits on the other side, knowing full well that the other side held both positive and negative realities.
MTI: Finally, someone willing to take the plunge! Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
MB: Presently, I’m rewriting the story of a fallen angel who attempts to save the people of Jerusalem from a massacre at the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes and his Assyrian troops in 167 BC.
MTI: Intriguing! Other than your work appearing in Altered Europa, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?
MB: I continue to submit stories, but have no other piece that is slated for publication in the near future.
MTI: Get that fallen angel story polished up and hopefully that’ll see the light of day soon. The premise sounds fascinating.
On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
MB: Good TV watching abounds. “Westworld,” “Stranger Things,” and Philip Dick’s alternate history adapted for TV, “The Man in the High Castle,” come to mind.
MTI: How about music?
MB: I’ve focussed on listening to early music lately: classical music on period instruments, especially Corelli; Jazz from the 20’s to the 50’s.
MTI: Can you name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?
MB: Hitchcock's “39 Steps,” “North by Northwest,” and “Rear Window” are movies I could watch repeatedly and not be bored.
MTI: True classics. Readers love samples. Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?
MB: Excerpt from “The German Tutor” (Poetica, 2015):
On a deceptively bright summer day, I walked from the tram stop to the address of my new tutor. Blushing poppies and pale wilting hydrangea were contrasted by dour boxwood hedges. The lush greenery veritably gushed but the lilacs already had begun to wither. The perfume of flow-ers mixed with the musty smell from nearby weed patches. The orderliness of yards and floral window boxes, admirable as they were, couldn’t but make me wonder if Jews killed after the Anschluss in 1938 lay beneath the well-tended gardens. A crazy thought, I know.
If ever those who were murdered reached the Jewish cemetery, itself vandalized, trash-ed and left in ruin on Kristallnacht, those bodies must have been thrown into mass graves dug there and throughout Austria and Germany in the days following the “night of broken glass.”
Coincidentally, on the way to the tutor I passed the forlorn Jewish cemetery. Astonished
to see toppled headstones still lay on untended grounds, I asked myself if enough Jews remain-ed to rectify such neglect?
I walked past strewn broken headstones and squatted down in wildly growing grass in front of a still-standing grave marker with Katz in block letters and gestorben 1932 inscribed upon it. Engraved in Hebrew below the Star of David: “May God bless you, Yeverekhaka Adonai,” followed by Mein hertz roll in Israel zein, my heart is in Israel.
What have you done, Ben? You’ve chosen the most inappropriate country in which to attend medical school. I considered turning around right then to leave Austria before my studies had even begun. Used to fleeing from those situations that were the slightest “threat” — a “second generation” trait no doubt — it was a means of self-defense from the outside world, rooted in my Holocaust survivor family’s paranoia.
Of all the places, I went to Austria, my birth country, to study medicine after my rejection from American schools. Encouraged by another New Yorker in the third year at Graz, I adopted the university’s suggestion for success: live with an Austrian family and study German with a tutor.
How could I have returned to the scene of the crime! Seemingly unaware that the re-mains of the Holocaust, veritably a conflagration, were both the foundation of my very existence and the source of my depression, I’d jumped at the opportunity to study medicine in a language that I knew after English-speaking schools said no. Thus, I had found myself in a country in which they spoke the language of the aggressor.
MTI: Thank you for a fantastic interview! Those who wish to check out Murray Braun’s story on Columbus, along with 20 other alternate histories, can pick up Altered Europa!