Derek Ailes is a PROLIFIC writer. He’s written hundreds (thousands?) of short stories, compiled several anthologies and has written several novels. He is totally engaged in the world of horror and surrounds himself with all sorts of scary props.
I talked to him about his personal writing projects as well as his collaboration with his brother.
Melanie Rockett: You started reading and writing at a very young age. Can you give us a bit of your background?
Derek Ailes: After seeing Return of The Jedi at the theater, I wanted to create a science fiction universe of my own. My series Power Command was born originally called David’s First War. For the next decade, I poured by soul into the series writing over hundreds of short stories.
In elementary school, I wrote my first children’s book: The Day It Rain Candy and illustrated it. I won a ribbon for it in a school writing contest. You can see pictures of it on my website.
When I first wrote the David’s First War stories, I wrote them in the same style. By middle school, I was writing those stories, by then changing the name of the series to Power Force, on college ruled paper averaging forty or more pages per story. Unfortunately most of those stories were lost over the years, but luckily, I remember most of them.
In 1996, my brother, Mark Cusco Ailes, and I wrote a novel together called Power Command, which dealt with those characters which we couldn’t get any publisher or agent interested in.
In 2009, I began writing a short story called Zombie Command which reintroduces David Canese from the series. In 2013, I finally finished it and make it the first story in Zombie Command: A Horror Anthology.
Melanie Rockett: All of your writing is in the horror and Sci Fi niches. What in particular interested you in these categories?
Derek Ailes: I grew up watching The Twilight Zone, Tales From the Crypt, Halloween, Nightmare on Elmstreet, low budget horror films and science fiction. I was heavily into reading horror fiction from Stephen King, Clive Barker, the late R. Karl Largent (who was my first mentor in the writing field. He was the first fellow writer I met in person who taught me in three hours more than I have learned in the past several years on creative writing), and I read numerous fantasy and science novels.
In middle school, I read seventy novels in one year. I’m not talking thin books either. One of those books was Strangers by Dean Koontz which is the size of multiple novels in itself.
I’ve always been fascinated by stories dealing with the macabre and the unknown and it translates into my writing.
My brother and I have been going to horror conventions meeting other authors, horror icons, directors the past two years and I’m always coming up with new horror story ideas while there. A lot of times, I’ll just be sitting in front of my laptop and a whole story pops in my head and several hours and five thousand or more words later, I have an awesome first draft of another short story.
Melanie Rockett: For many years you “dabbled” with your writing … some short stories were published. Then you started writing novels and publishing them. What piqued your interest and got you started again.
Derek Ailes: In 1994, my short story “The Night of the Living Redheads” was published. After “Power Command” failed to have any interest, I stepped away from working on my own material. Looking back at that manuscript, I can see why there was no interest in it. A lot of work should have been done to it before we even tried to submit it to. I continued working with my brothers stories. He would write the first draft and I would put my magic into it. He wrote six or seven novels within the next four years, but he got married and his writing career to a back seat for a few years.
For the next few years, I stopped with the writing and focused on trying to make a living working a 9 to 5 job. After the first Lord Of the Rings movie came out movie came out, my brother decided it was time to take his novel and try to get it published. In 2009, The Tree of No Boundaries was released, followed by the sequel in Snow Dargles in 2010.
By this time, I decided to return to writing and wrote a couple of short stories, Zombie Command being one of them, which I put aside. I discovered GoAnimate.com and for the next couple of years, I wrote and did all the vocals for my comedy cartoon series: Stuck In Indiana. During this time, Mark started writing the third Weekland novel which I worked with him on editing it. When we were able to get the rights to Tree of No Boundaries and Snow Dargles back, we went back and re-edited and reworked those two novels and re-issued them as the Ray Cycle Adventure series renaming the first two: Bunga and Tashla. We decided to each write our own horror short stories for an anthology: Journey Into the Unknown: Deluxe Horror Edition.
I finally had my first novel published.
During the Journey sessions, I came up with a large stack of outlines for other short stories. I tried to finish the story Zombie Command for the anthology, but couldn’t get the ending figured out in time for publication. For the next several months, I began writing one horror short story after another throwing in my warped sense of humor into each story. I finally was able to finish Zombie Command and first solo release of material was released and then I re-released it six months later with a proper edit and a better book cover.
Melanie Rockett: What is your latest book about?
Derek Ailes: Second Journey Into the Unknown was Mark Cusco Ailes and my second anthology of horror madness. With me being back into the swing of writing, I had a lot of fun writing stories for this project. Mark found the original draft of my short story “Night of the Living Redheads” and we re-wrote it re-titled “Day of the Redheads”. I had so many stories from the Zombie Command sessions which were unfinished. I had so much great material to work with. I came up with a short story Furnado based on an April Fool’s Poster making a parody of Sharknado using cats. When I saw the poster, the story popped into my head. I also have a story about our experience at the first Walker Stalker Con (The Walking Dead convention) in Chicago and I thought what if zombies really were unleased at one of these horror conventions. My favorite story was “Claws” which is about a fifty foot cat terrorizing the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore.
By this time, I became a regular contributor on Shortfictionbreak.com and have posted a few stories on the website from the first three horror anthologies along with writing new material.
Melanie Rockett: Many of your projects are written with your brother, Mark Cusco Ailes. How do you go about co-writing a novel? Who does what? Do you write separately or together?
Derek Ailes: The first two anthologies, my brother wrote his own stories and I wrote mine with “The Day of the Redheads” being the only one we both wrote together. Once all the stories are finished, I assemble them in one book and then everything goes into the editing stages. I search for the perfect book covers using photos from royalty free sites or hiring an artist through Fiverr. After everything is done, the book is published and Mark and I go on a book tour setting up at all the book fairs and conventions which we can meeting and selling books like crazy.
This year our displays are getting more elaborate and this fall when each of us have our newest books published, we are debuting a horror setup which we hope will be the talk throughout the writing community for years to come. There are too many authors who just slapped their book on a table with nothing to catch the reader’s attention. If you’ve seen pictures on my website taken from my brother’s horror studio, you get an idea what we are all about.
Melanie Rockett: I suspect there are many more stories and books to come. What will we see from you next? What’s on the back burner?
Derek Ailes: Since I’m celebrating 30 years as a writer, I was going to write my first full length novel based on my characters from my childhood along with a fantasy novel called Beast Within. The first week on March my friend, James Coon was getting up to go to work and died of a heart attack. He had been telling me for years that he had all these stories he wanted to one day get published. When I met with his sister for the first time, I told her there were notebooks he had written short stories in and he was in the middle of writing one the week before he died. Not only did she find those stories, she brought me a gigantic folder filled with short stories he wrote going all the way back to the 1960s.
I began working on those stories along with writing stories based on the conversations me and JC had over the past fifteen years. The anthology is called: Musings From A Demented Mind by Derek Ailes & James Coon. It will be released in October. The anthology is being broken into two parts. Part one is the stories JC wrote plus all the stories from our conversations. Part two is all the stories I’ve written for shortfictionbreak.com since last year and stories I’ve written recently based on interesting news stories (the millions of bees being unleashed on the highway during the crash) and some interesting stories based on Mark and my recent travels.
The book is going to end with a biography on JC I’m writing with behind the scenes stories on how all the stories came to be and some of the hidden meanings (and comic book Easter eggs hidden throughout the stories).
I have a short story “Rastus, A Warrior’s Quest” being published in the next SFB anthology in July which will introduce the characters to my upcoming fantasy novel: Beast Within.
I’m also in discussion with my brother to unearth his unpublished novel “Full Moon Story” as a new collaboration for 2017.
Until Next Time … Stay Scared. ~Derek Ailes
WOW hard to keep up with Derek Ailes, his hundreds of stories and dozens of ongoing projects! But you CAN keep track of what he’s up to at his website DerekAiles.com
If you love horror and Sci Fi, be sure to get his books on Amazon.