Welcome to WOLF NOTES, where interview questions stray from the rest of the pack. It’s nice to know the usual stuff like where an author gets their inspiration and why they write, but sometimes we need a little fun in our lives.
Wolf: Say hello to Valerie J. Mikles.
Valerie is a PhD astronomer who found a home at NOAA working on weather satellites. She loves to travel and learn about other cultures, but considers herself a homebody the rest of the year. In September 2017, she published the first novel of her New Dawn series “The Disappeared,” and has since released several more. When not writing novels, she can be found at the community theater, acting, choreographing, costuming, or stage managing. She’s also written and produced a series of comedic short films about asexuality, inspired by her own journey of self-discovery. Her motto in life is “I can be everything I want, just not all at the same time.”
Wolf: That is a great motto. If you could be any animal in the universe, what would it be and why?
Valerie: I’d be some kind of fish living in warm, tropical waters. I love the ocean and I always feel cold, so a life at sea in a warm environment would be awesome. If I were a mermaid, I would occasionally beach myself on a rock and spend the night stargazing. I don’t know if I’d ever swim far north enough to see the Northern Lights (it’d just be too cold), but I could dip into the southern hemisphere to see the Magellanic Clouds. I think as long as being a mermaid didn’t require me to wear a sea-shell bra, I’d be okay with it. Otherwise, I’d want to be something simple, blue, and tropical, like a blue tang.
Wolf: How about a shell tunic? (Trying really hard not to start singing “Under the Sea”) If you had to pick a weapon, what would it be and why?
Valerie: I’m stuck between knife and trebuchet. I feel like the knife is infinitely practical, portable, and reusable. As a minimalist, I also like that it can be used for many different things, like killing chickens, cutting fruit, and stabbing enemies. However, the trebuchet allows me to launch any number of weapons of opportunities a great distance, saving me the trouble of hand-to-hand combat, which I have admittedly not trained in. I don’t really foresee myself launching rocks, but I could totally launch plague-infested corpses into anti-vaxxer territory… sorry, is this getting too political? Also, if I needed an escape, I could launch myself.
Wolf: Not too political. I’m very much pro-science and pro-vaccine. You’ve just been turned into a plant. Describe yourself.
Valerie: I have broad, soft leaves and bright, rainbow-colored, fragrant flowers. I love roses, both in softness and scent, but I wouldn’t be thorny like a rose bush, nor would I attract aphids and beetles. I am not the kind of plant that bugs crawl on. I naturally repulse them with my super-plant oils. I’d flourish in tropical climates with lots of humidity. When my seeds are tossed into flood waters, the water levels instantly go down, roots spread, and flowers bloom. I’m probably edible, too.
Wolf: Awesome! Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person?
Valerie: I’m more of a cat person than a dog person, but one of my cats thinks he’s a dog. He barks at the squirrels in the back yard. (It’s a cat-like bark, but it’s not a meow.) I have three cats, but I’m a one-cat person. But when I adopted the first one, he was so sad and depressed, and my options were to take him back or try a friend. So, I went back to the person who’d fostered him and picked up a second cat. Things got instantly better for the first cat, but the poor second cat wasn’t able to handle his neediness 24-7. The third guy really balances the house, so now I have three happy cats and I just sit here constantly overwhelmed in my cat-crowded house. I hate when people call me a “cat mom” because I consider us to be more like roommates.
Wolf: Wow. You’re the second person who said their cat was like a dog, but the first on with a cat that barks. I’d love to hear a recording of that. While walking in the woods you come across…
Valerie: A snake eating another snake. True story. I grew up in Baltimore County, north of the city, before the houses turn to horse farms. My family went hiking with our dog almost every weekend. There were places nearby with dense woods, rocky trails, streams and rivers, and the occasional log bridge to challenge one’s balance. Once, we even did an Easter egg hunt in the woods, and left a hard-boiled egg for the woodland creatures because we couldn’t find it again. Though in retrospect, it’s possible something ate it. Which brings me to the snake. We didn’t often see snakes, but one day, I guess it was just that time of year, and the snakes were out. We jumped into a cool refreshing river after a long hike, and then jumped out five seconds later because a snake slithered in. Snakes are not the best swimming companions for humans. We bolted, and it seemed every time our heart rates slowed, another snake appeared on the path. After we crossed the snake eating another snake, we just kept running until we got to the car.
Wolf: That’s a lot of snakes. It must have been a snake holiday. What is your favorite body of water and why? (river, ocean, waterfall, puddle, bottle…)
Valerie: How do I choose? When you swim in a river, your skin and hair get all soft. Fresh water doesn’t have waves, but it also doesn’t sting when you get some up your nose. It’s good for skiing… But the ocean is the ocean. Salt water has this whole other healing effect on the body. It’s soothing to stare at, more-so if you can listen to the waves crashing on the shore. You can choose your shoreline for gentle waves or giant ones. My perfect afternoon is at an Atlantic Coast beach, somewhere in south Florida. So, I guess the body of water is the Atlantic Ocean, at the part where it kisses Crescent Beach, Florida.
Wolf: Nice. What story are you working on now?
Valerie: I’m working on several. Book 6 of my series is with my editor, and I expect to have feedback on that soon so I can get it out later this year. Book 7 is ready for beta-readers, but I promised myself I’d slow down on the series. I also started work on two original novels. I’m super-excited about one called The Qinali Vaccine, which features an astral projecting asexual astronomer who is trying to save the human race from extinction. I don’t have a release date yet because I’m still wearing the rose-colored first draft glasses.
Wolf: Sounds interesting. Let me know when you’re ready for beta-reader for that one. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Valerie: I do a little bit of everything. I’m a board member for my local community theater, and have filled many roles on and off the stage. My favorite role is choreographer. I love bringing stories to life through dance. I also love making films, playing piano and guitar, and sewing costumes. A few years ago, my antidepressants sent me into a hyper-mania, and I joined a gym to let off excess energy. I’ve really enjoyed getting stronger and learned some of the basics of power lifting. I can now lift a 50 lb. bag of cat litter with minimal effort. Also, I’m super excited to be able to open the fire doors at work without throwing my entire body weight behind the effort. Being strong is fun.
Wolf: It’s amazing how many writers also make costumes or another art form. The Arts are definitely connected. Thanks for visiting. Connect with Valerie through one of the links below.
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