20 Questions with... Valeriya Salt
Valeriya Salt is a multi-genre author from the United Kingdom. She studied history and earned her Master’s degree in Art Expertise at St. Petersburg University of Culture and Arts.
Born in Belarus, she’d lived for many years in different corners of Eastern Europe before settling down in the north of England. Her 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) , The Worlds Within, and won a Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.
Her sci-fi thriller novel Dive Beyond Eternity is out in July 2023 by Northodox Press (UK). Her novella Aurora Island came out in April 2023 with Alien Buddha Press (USA).
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up?
My name is Valeriya Salt. I’m a multi-genre author from Sheffield (UK). I was born in Belarus, but my family moved to Crimea when I was just six. I lived all my childhood in Sevastopol, a beautiful city on the Black Sea coast. Growing up, I spent lots of time with my family, friends, and classmates on a beach, travelling around Crimea, and writing my stories. Overall, I had a very happy childhood without gadgets and social media.
Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?
I started to write relatively early, in my early teens, but I’d never seen it as a serious career. In fact, I began to treat it seriously only when I moved to the UK ten years ago and started to write in English.
I have a day job too. I work part-time in HR, recruitment, and office administration. I consider myself lucky, as my part-time job leaves me some time to write.
Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.
Aurora Island is a fast-paced sci-fi/thriller novella, set in 2017 the UK and Iceland.
What are you working on right now?
I’m in between projects now. My dark sci-fi/thriller novel Dive Beyond Eternity is out in July with Northodox Press. So I’ve spent the last few weeks reviewing it for the final time before it went back to my publisher for typesetting, formatting, etc.
Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?
I usually write when I’m off my day job and during weekends. I prefer to write in the early afternoon rather than early morning or late night.
Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?
Definitely can’t write “on the move” or anywhere away from my office room at home. I have a small desk with all the necessary equipment where I sit and write. I know many authors who write in coffee shops. As for me, I can’t focus with people around, music playing, etc. I need silence of my office room.
What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?
I’d say don’t rush to publish your stories. Invest some time in searching for good beta-readers. You don’t necessarily need an army. It can be 3-4 people, but thorough ones. The ones you enjoy working with, who give you constructive feedback. Spend lots of time on editing and proofreading or, even better, outsource it to a professional editor/proofreader, if you have the financial means to do so.
If you’re going for traditional publishing, research your publishers. There’re lots of vanity presses who charge authors to publish their books. There’re lots of cowboy-publishers who’re going for quantity not quality of books. I worked with one of them once. It didn’t end up very well for me.
Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?
I hate the sound of my voice and my accent. So I hate doing live readings or filming myself talking, but if it helps to promote my book, I’ll go for it.
Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?
Love, loss, death, war, peace, feeling of belonging, loyalty, friendship – the same themes that concern most people, I guess.
Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?
I don’t think writers should necessarily have a moral purpose. Some writers write to entertain, some write because they want to express themselves.
Do you write between genres or not?
Most of my works mix several genres: sci-fi and thriller, historical fiction and fantasy, horror and paranormal, etc.
Which living writers do you most admire?
It’s such a difficult question, because there are many. I like both indie authors and “big names”. My recent discoveries amongst indie-published authors are Andrew Turpin, Cristian Scubli (yet to be published) and Paul D Coombs. Amongst the big names are Robert Harris, Dan Brown and Bernard Cornwell.
Which dead writers do you most admire?
Again, there’re many names on this list from Albert Camus to Carlos Castaneda, from Russian classics to Philip K Dick, Frank Herbert and Michael Crichton. My taste is eclectic.
What’s the book you wish you’d written?
The one that would’ve made me an all-time bestselling author.
What other external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc?
My passion for history and travels plays a great role in my writing. I love to mix real historical events with fiction. I also like to set my stories in places where I lived or visited. Music and nature helps me to fight my writer’s block.
Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?
I suffer from “writer’s block” as much as all authors do, I guess. Switching between writing, editing, beta-reading, and other activities helps to fight it. As I’ve mentioned in the previous answer, music and long hikes in the neighbouring Peak District National Park help a lot.
What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?
Positive reviews and interest in my future works are the best ones for me.
How do your family and friends feel about your writing?
My husband is extremely supportive. He’s my first beta-reader. He also loves to “brainstorm” new ideas with me, especially when I’m stuck in a plot hole or something.
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
Unfortunately, we don’t have many independent bookstores in Sheffield. So most of the books come from online stores or directly from authors.
How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?
With the rapid development of indie-publishing and different publishing platforms, I believe the publishing business will become more and more decentralised, meaning that authors will (hopefully) become less dependent on Amazon.