Saturday, July 1, 2023

Author interview with Valeriya Salt

This month’s author interview is with Valeriya Salt who had her first short story published seven years ago. She writes in many genres: from sci-fi and historical fantasy to paranormal and thrillers but she’s quite adventurous and likes to mix it up to create new “hybrids”. So let’s meet her:

‘I’m a multi-genre author from Sheffield (UK). I studied history and earned my Master’s degree in Art Expertise at St. Petersburg University of Culture and Arts. Born in Belarus, I’d lived for many years in Crimea and Russia before settling down in the north of England.
My short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in anthologies and magazines, including The Copperfield Review, The Chamber Magazine, Bewildering Stories, Strange Fiction ‘Zine SF&F, The Pine Cone Review, Tall Tale TV (podcast), etc, and won an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.’

Not bad, considering she has a day job too! She has created a tweetable introduction too (tweet here):
‘Valeriya Salt is a multi-genre author from the UK. She writes fiction & non-fiction, blending genres & forms. So far, she released a sci-fi/thriller novella AURORA ISLAND & a dark thriller novel DIVE BEYOND ETERNITY.’ 

I wondered whether she was bilingual and (because I can’t begin to imagine how anyone masters more than one language!) does she think/ research/ write in English or her native tongue?

‘Half of my family is Belarusian and another half – ethnic Russian, so I’m a Russian-speaking Belarusian (complicated, I know). I’m not bilingual, although I started to learn English as a second language at the age of 5-6 and continued to learn (together with French) at school and then at university. I’d also worked for a few years in an international crewing company with offices all over the world before coming to the UK.
As for my writing, since I came to the UK, I’ve been always writing in English for the English-speaking market. The same goes with research for my books (unless I need something really specific that I can’t find in English). I wouldn’t venture to translate my own works into Russian. I do believe that it should be done by a professional editor-translator with years of experience in English-Russian translations.’ 

I’m so impressed by anyone who speaks more than one language! So far she’s indie published a novella and a full-length novel. What inspired her to become a writer? 

‘I started to write relatively early, in my early teens, but I’d never seen it as a serious career. In fact, I never really wanted to be a writer. I guess I’ve just gradually gotten into it. The more I wrote, the more I liked it.’

Does she have a daily writing routine? 

‘I usually write when I’m off my day job and during weekends. So it’s not really a daily routine as such. I prefer to write in the early afternoon rather than early morning or late night. I don’t set a certain page/word-goal, just write as much as I can in one sitting.’

I’ve a lot of admiration for people working whilst trying to establish an audience – it involves a lot of juggling! What part of the writing process does she enjoy the most?

‘I love creating new characters and worlds, incorporating places I lived in or visited into my writing.’

That sounds like fun! What’s been the hardest part of writing/ getting published?

‘The hardest part of writing is editing. I hate to go over the same manuscript again and again. I prefer to brainstorm brand new ideas and put them on paper. 

The hardest part of getting published is querying. I spent almost two years trying to find a good home for my novel DIVE BEYOND ETERNITY. The publishing business is extremely competitive and slow.’

Aw, editing, writers seem to fall into the love or hate camp for this part of the process! I wondered what Valeriya would say to her younger writing self?

‘Please, don’t rush to get published. Invest your time and efforts in finding good beta-readers, then edit, edit, edit… Also, research publishers. Don’t go with the first offer. Not all of them are good for you and your works.’

Okay, that’s an interesting answer but I need to unpick it. First of all, beta readers – how did she recruit them and how much does she listen to their advice?

‘I don’t have many beta-readers as I prefer quality over quantity. I have just a few, but they’re very reliable and thorough. I’ve found most of them on Twitter or in special Facebook groups, dedicated to beta-reading and manuscripts’ critique. I also swap manuscripts with my fellow authors. 

I try to keep a healthy balance between readers’ advice and my own opinion. Hence, I always try to “recruit” at least 3-4 readers, not just 1. More than 5 opinions (especially if they differ) make my head spin, and I start to hesitate about what to leave and what to remove.’ 

I can imagine! The second question relates to researching publishers - it sounds like she’s had a bad experience. Was it a vanity publisher? 

‘No, they didn’t charge me any money for publishing. They were just a “cowboy” publisher as I called them. They printed books rather than published them with very little editing, formatting, and no marketing plan, hoping that they might be lucky one day and sign an author with many sales.’ 

Oh dear, that’s disappointing, particularly after believing you’ve secured a publishing deal. Having been through all of this, what common traps does she feel are waiting for aspiring writers?

‘Rushing to publish work with either vanity publishers, who demand money from authors, or self-publishing without serious editing/proofreading and marketing plan. I learned the hard way. 

Before meeting my current publisher, I’d worked with a small indie press (my ‘cowboy’ publisher) who were all about quantity not quality. As a result, their books were ridden with typos, grammatical errors, the formatting and typesetting was bad too. The book covers look generic. They expected authors to pay to the third parties for promotion. Basically, they just printed (not published) books and put them on Amazon. 

I wasted over two years with them. At least, I’ve learned how the real publishing business should work.’

What a positive way of looking back on a difficult experience but oh dear, what a disappointment. Having been through all this, does she have any tips for writers just embarking on their journey?

 ‘My advice for new authors would be:

  • Don’t rush to publish your work with any publisher, do thorough research. There are lots of sites, listing vanity publishers. Google a publisher first, see if anything “fishy” comes out.

  • Submission process. Do they charge for reading your material? If yes, run! I’m a bit cautious if a publisher asks for a full manuscript. Usually, serious publishers ask for a synopsis and the first 3-5 chapters or 10,000 words, etc. Not the whole book. Also, how quickly they reply to authors. On one hand, you don’t want to wait for 1-2 years to hear back from them (especially, if it’s a “no”), on the other hand, if a publisher replies on the same/next day (like it happened to me with my previous “cowboy” publisher), clearly, they haven’t even read your submission.

  • Publisher’s official site. Does it look professional? Does it promote their published books or just recruit new authors, promising high royalties and quick turnaround time?

  • Quality of book covers. Do they look aesthetically pleasing? Do you like them? Or do they look generic?

  • Publishing/editorial team. Do they have any experience/background in editing, publishing, distributing books?

  • Editing/formatting/covers’ design/etc. Do they charge for any of these services? If yes, run! In general, it’s good to know how many rounds of editing and proofreading a publisher is going to do for your book. The more the better. Also, it’s good to know whether they have in-house editors or they subcontract editing/proofreading to a third party. Serious publishers always have an editor in their team.

  • Promotion, marketing, sales. Where and how they’re going to publish and promote your book. Amazon? Other online platforms? Or do they have contracts with bookstores, etc? There’s nothing wrong with Amazon, but it’s a good sign if a publisher works with a few different platforms/retailers. The same goes for marketing. The wider audience of readers they have, the better.

  • Author’s copies. Do they provide them for free?

They are probably the main points I’d recommend keeping in mind, looking for a publisher or signing a publishing contract. There’re many good sources for authors on this topic. For example: publishes an annual digest/booklet (free to download) with the list of legitimate indie presses where new authors can send their works.’

Gosh, what fabulous advice, thanks Valeriya! How long does it take her to write a book and does she have any in the works just now?

‘The time depends on the length and the genre. It takes me about six months to write a 25,000-word novella (including editing) and over two years to write and edit a novel. I have one sci-fi/ thriller novel, THE SEEDS OF SKY, which is waiting to be published.’

Does she read reviews of her books and how does she deal with them?

‘I do read them all. Of course, great reviews make me happy. Bad reviews upset me, but not for too long. I prefer to focus on why a reader gave me a bad review rather than on the negativity of it. I try to learn from readers’ feedback (both good and bad) to improve my writing.’

So now we move onto Valeriya’s books. Do we need to read them in a specific order?

‘Not really, as both of my stories (AURORA ISLAND and DIVE BEYOND ETERNITY) are standalone books. I’m currently working on the sequel to DIVE BEYOND ETERNITY. However, I can’t tell now when it’ll be finished and published.’

Ooh, a sequel, that sounds like fun. I asked for a brief synopsis of “Dive Beyond Eternity”? 

‘“Dive Beyond Eternity” is a dark sci-fi thriller, set in the present day UK. It tells the story of Zara Rose, a World War II naval historian, investigating a mysterious German U-Boat, discovered in the North Sea and carrying a deadly secret—a Nazi super weapon able to split time and space, creating a labyrinth of multiple realities.’

This sounds amazing! At what point did she realise there was more story to be told?

‘When I finished it and started to query agents and publishers, I realised that there was some “breathing space” for the plot, and my characters still had some intriguing stories to tell. I’m not sure now whether it’ll grow into a series or even a third book. I’ve only just written a couple of the first chapters and still playing around with ideas.’

It sounds like she’s at the part she enjoys the most then! Before finishing, I asked if there was anything else she’d like to share with you? 

‘Thank you very much for reading this interview. I hope it’ll help you to discover your new favourite author đŸ™‚’

Well said!  If you’d like to find out more about Valeriya please visit her links below:

Twitter: @LSalt1

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out by following here