Your short story Naughty or Nice is in the Ho Ho Horror anthology. What can readers look forward to in Naughty or Nice?
Most Christmas tales are set in the northern hemisphere but Australian readers will enjoy the familiar setting of this story. This is especially true for fellow Queenslanders who may have grown up in a typical Queenslander house with creaking floor boards and a tin roof and who, as I did, wondered how Santa Claus got into houses with no chimneys. However, the setting is secondary to the characters in this tale. The story is about a little boy who has behaved naughtily and is afraid that he might miss out on a visit from Santa. It explores character traits that are particularly relevant to children such as innocence and selfishness.
Naughty or Nice and the other stories in Ho Ho Horror are Christmas horror stories. Have you read many Christmas horror stories before, or do you think writing Naughty or Nice will entice you to read more Christmas horror stories in the future?
I haven’t read many Christmas horror stories before apart from Charles Dickens’ legendary Christmas Ghost Stories. Ho Ho Horror has definitely enticed me to read more. I think that the contrast between the love and purity that Christmas represents and the darkness of horror stories makes for entertaining and thought-provoking fiction.
You write short stories but also have a novella and a novel published. To what extent do you treat each length as having distinct structural differences, or do you treat them as much the same but just different lengths?
They are very different. Novels show the reader how a character changes –for better or for worse – as a result of a series of challenges. They enable the writer to invent a setting in detail and to link characters to each other in ways that are often subtle and complex. For me, the novella is great for adventure or mystery tales. You don’t necessarily want to go into the depth of character development or use numerous interweaving plots the way you do in a novel. The novella gives you enough length to introduce a character but gives emphasis to the plot. I like my novellas to be fast-paced and intriguing. The short story is my favourite length and the most important aspect of it is the story idea itself. You can’t develop characters and evoke the atmosphere of the setting as profoundly as you can in a longer work but you can thrust the reader into a particular moment in time and give him a nasty surprise.
What kinds of fiction do you most enjoy reading, and what are some of your recent favourite reads?
I mostly read fiction that falls into the genres of mystery, suspense and horror and tend to read more short stories and novellas than novels. I’ve been spending more time writing than reading recently but am finally working my way through “Flesh Wounds”, one of Christopher Fowler’s early short story collections. I am a big fan of his urban psychological suspense.
What is it that draws you to writing mystery/suspense/horror, as opposed to other kinds of fiction?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I guess it’s the ability that these genres give you to get the reader thinking about what is happening in the story. I like inventing strange events and settings in which a character has to try to solve a problem or discover a secret. Sometimes I let them succeed and sometimes I don’t – maybe the former is more my mystery side and the latter my horror side.
Who is one of your favourite fictional characters from a story you have read recently, and what makes that character work so well for you as a reader?
I read Tony Richard’s “The Harvest Bride” a couple of months ago and found it very easy to imagine the main character who was a dysfunctional journalist with a mysterious past involving the Vietnam War. He suited the story well and was the perfect stereotype of a has-been journo.
If you could bring one storyteller back from the dead for a day for the sole purpose of talking to them about writing fiction, who would it be and why?
My first reaction would be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but I think an encounter with Edgar Allan Poe would be far stranger. He was a master of the suspenseful plot and invoked chilling gothic atmospheres. I think that just being in the same room with him without even asking him any questions would provide me with plenty of inspiration.
What is next for your fiction writing?
I’m trying to get better with every page I write. The art of writing is the same as any other art – it takes time and dedication. I just want to write stories that I like and hope that people will enjoy reading them. I am going to self-publish my debut short story collection early next year (2012) and am busy planning the marketing for that at the moment. I also have one novella (that I intend to be the first in a series) about a green tea addicted private investigator of strange occurrences currently under consideration with an Australian dark fiction publisher. I have numerous short stories under consideration with magazines and anthologies and am working on more short stories. I am also slowly working on a second suspense novel.
More on Cameron Trost and his fiction can be found at www.trostlibrary.blogspot.com and you can read a recent interview with him about writing short stories on Authors Compare at http://www.authorscompare.net/2011/12/cameron-trost-author-interview-short.html.
The Australian Literature Review