Meet Claire Cronshaw

Every Friday, we meet a member of the BFS and peer deep into their soul (or, at least, a form they filled out). Want to be featured? Email us: online@britishfantasysociety.org

Name, including preferred pronouns
Claire Cronshaw, aka Claire Cherry Edits: she/her

Which region are you based in?
North of England – I’m a Cumbrian, living in Lancashire

Genre you work in 
I mainly edit fantasy, but I’ve done some sci-fi. I’ve not edited any horror (yet).

If you don’t write, what do you do?

I’m an editor for indie authors. I do line and copy editing, and I proofread. I also offer coaching and courses, plus I do speaking gigs for author groups, etc.

Are you drawn to any specific SFFH sub-genres?

I read all sorts, but I really like SFFH that’s grounded in reality. Whether that’s historical fantasy that blends with magical realism – such as the era-spanning The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – or whether it’s something dystopian from the near future, like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun: show me an alternative version of a world I recognise and I’ll be hooked.

Your influences

Tell us about the book/film/thing that got you into SFFH: What was it? How old were you? What impact did it have on you?

It was probably Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series. I would have been about seven or eight when I read these. Moon-Face, Dame Washalot, The Saucepan Man, et al. – they were delightful companions. There were some great villains, too, like Dame Slap! I wasn’t the most creative child, to be honest. But something episodic like this provided a great framework in which to be creative. It was easy to conjure up other worlds that might have their turn at the top of the tree. And that occupied me as a child as I envisaged characters and scenarios, through drawing, writing, or role-play.

How does that early influence show up in your work now?

I’ve been editing SFF since I set up Cherry Edits in 2018. And I edit twice as much fantasy as anything else, which is awesome! I quickly realised I didn’t want to be a generalist; I wanted to niche down. It made sense to home in on the top three genres I loved (love!) to read – SFF, women’s fiction, and romance. My childhood/tween/teenage fantasy reading journey took me from easy reads by Enid Blyton to chunkier and more thought-provoking classics like C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, to texts that blew my mind when I was at a formative age, such as the incredible One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And while you can’t really be a ‘mood editor’, I am most definitely a mood reader, so I’ll sometimes go for fantasy-lite, and at other times I’ll go all-in for worlds that are vastly different from our own.

Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

I go to a monthly writers’ café, and I love to write flash fiction. I’m not good with blank pieces of paper, to be honest. I need a prompt. So give me an opening line, and I’ll be away. Or an image. Or a character name. Or an object. Years ago I took part in a writing workshop at a stately home on the outskirts of Leeds. We took our inspiration from tables and desks, both above stairs and below. We imagined who sat there. What they were doing. I loved picturing who’d written letters at these tables, and who they were writing to, and what they were writing about. That really set the creative juices flowing.

Morecambe library: where Claire get most of her fantasy books from

Who do you look to as a genre hero? Why?

I’m not one of these readers who hangs on every word of an author IRL as well as in their books, so this is just going to be very much book-based, because I’ve no clue what she’s like as a person. V. E. Schwab. Tell me she’s lovely! As I mentioned earlier, I very much enjoy The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I love the scope and the ambition of that one. It feels tight as well as expansive. Claustrophobia and freedom sit side-by-side. Autonomy and agency, or lack thereof. And the looming spectre of fate. This also hangs heavy in her novel Gallant,which is very different from Addie LaRue in terms of setting and feel. It’s a moodier book – much more gothic, and its pace is slower. But while Addie LaRue left me with characters and scenarios and even certain lines that I’ll never forget, Gallant left me with a feeling. I love it when books do that. V. E. Schwab is very talented.

Your work

You’re stuck in an elevator for 60 seconds with that hero, and they want you to describe your work. Give us the pitch.

Oh my God. Victoria Schwab! How are you? Hey, I saw the other day that you’ve been reviewing your own books on Goodreads. Nice work! That really made me laugh…You know what, we move in similar circles. I work in publishing too. I’m an editor, and I work on fantasy novels for indie authors. There’s some incredible talent out there. Some top-notch worldbuilding, for sure. I help authors make sure their prose hits the mark and moves readers as they intend. It’s a bit of pruning. A bit of moving things around. Of course, I spot typos and I deal with iffy grammar and punctuation, but there’s more to it than that. I’m the sandpaper of the publishing world. Sometimes you need a fine grain; sometimes something with a bit more bite. I get a sense of the person I’m working with and their strengths and areas for development, and we go from there. So, Victoria, if you ever want to work together, look me up. 

V.E. Schwab is Claire’s genre hero (photo credit: Jenna Maurice)

What are you working on right now?

My first job of the year has been to edit the first 10,000 words of a literary sci-fi novel for an author who is querying publishers. It’s an exciting project and is one that requires a light touch. The author has a poetic style, so it’s important my edits deal with what needs doing, while being mindful of rhythm and voice.

Thinking about all of your work you’ve done, which one sticks out most in your mind? Why?

There’s an author who’s been with me for a couple of years, and his world is so familiar to me. When you read a lot and edit a lot, you’re not always going to remember everything. I keep thorough notes on a style sheet to ensure I can get quickly back in the zone whenever an author returns to me with a new book in the same world. But I’m pretty sure that even without my character, setting, and plot notes on my style sheet, I wouldn’t forget this author’s creation. It’s so well realised. It’s an ambitious project that will take several years to complete, and I hope I can continue to be along for the ride. The characters feel like family.

Where and when do you create/are you at your most creative?

I respond well to the energy of others around me. I don’t need silence to be able to create. In fact, I find silence quite intimidating. I like the gentle buzz of people at work. I like to hear the scribbling of pens around me, so writers’ groups are an ideal creative space for me. 

What’s the best advice you’ve received about creativity?

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.” Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle.

What’s your writing soundtrack?

A coffee machine. The whirring of other people’s pens – and my own! A low burr of chatter from elsewhere in the building. Some campanologists down the road rehearsing for an upcoming wedding, or whatever. I write at a community centre on a weekday night. There’s always a nice background buzz that helps me focus on what I’m doing.

For editing, it’s a different matter. I can’t concentrate if anyone’s talking. I need to be in my office, really, listening to the ‘Read Aloud’ function of Microsoft Word through my headphones. And if there’s any other noise I need to cut out – I’m looking at you, neighbours who’ve been having their driveway re-paved! – then I’ll use the ‘Focus’ soundtrack on the Headspace app, which has a resonance that dulls any obnoxious interruptions. 

The quickfire round

Sci-fi, fantasy or horror?

Fantasy

Quiet or loud?

Quiet(ish)

Dark or light?

Light

Strict lines or genre blend?

Genre blend

Awards or bestseller?

Bestseller

Fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction

(Pictured left: Claire with her husband, fantasy author Jon Cronshaw, and his guide dog Digit)

Poetry or prose?

Prose

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser

Reading or listening?

Why not both? Thomas The Tank Engine-stylee?! (Turn the page when you hear the toot!) I occasionally listen to an audiobook while having a hard copy of the same book in hand – no joke. But, honestly, my reading and listening is very much evenly balanced.

Notebook or computer?

Notebook for creative writing. Computer for editing.

Favourite SFFH book of all time?

That’s too hard! I’ve mentioned Addie LaRue a couple of times. I do love it! But ask me in a few years, and I’ll see if I still think of it as often as I think about Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which I know people tend to stick in literary fiction, but, c’mon, it’s at home in SFF categories too.

Last book you read?

Transcription by Kate Atkinson (pictured right)

Any SFFH author on auto-buy?

Erm, I’m not out for any ‘achievement unlocked’ accolades by reading every book by an author, but Kazuo Ishiguro is certainly up there, even if people argue over which categories best suit his work. I have faith that I’ll enjoy his books, so I’d never shy away from buying one. Everything I’ve read of his has been excellent. Klara and The Sun was one of my top reads last year. Loved it. 

Favourite podcast?

Grounded with Louis Theroux is excellent. He interviews some fascinating people who have amazing stories to tell.

The home stretch

What’s the best thing about being a SFFH writer/agent/publisher/reader/fan?

The SFFH community is so welcoming. I feel at home among your people!

Time to plug your stuff! Where can we find you and your work? What have you got coming up? Consider this your advertising space.

I hang out on Facebook, Threads, and LinkedIn. Instagram and Twitter less so. I’d love to meet and get to know more people in the SFFH community. I’ve got a website too: cherryedits.com. That’s basically my shop window for my editorial services. You’ll find the signup form for my newsletter there too. I do mailouts approx. once a month about all things indie.

I’ve got a free webinar coming up with my colleague Andy Hodges of The Narrative Craft. It’s on Wednesday 17thJanuary 2024 at 7 p.m. GMT. It’s called ‘Is Your Novel Editor-Ready’ – we’re looking at what you need to do before you send your manuscript off. I’m going to talk about what an editor-ready manuscript looks like for those who plan to self-publish. And Andy is going to focus on getting manuscripts ready for querying literary agents and traditional publishers. We’ll also briefly present our upcoming course (launching Monday 29th January 2024) for SFF authors who are not yet editor-ready.

If you’re reading this and have missed the dates for the webinar or course, sign up to our newsletters and we’ll let you know when we’re going to do them again – we plan to repeat the webinar and the course later in the year.

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3 responses to “Meet Claire Cronshaw”

  1. Sarah Elliott avatar
    Sarah Elliott

    Oh wow! The Faraway Tree – that was one of my favourites too! And strangely enough, I purchased The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue just last week at a local indie bookshop. If you’re at FantasyCon 2024, come find me to say hello!

    1. Claire Cronshaw avatar

      Hey there, Sarah. I’ve just spotted this comment. Have you read Addie LaRue now? Did you love it? Hope to see you at FantasyCon 🙂

  2. Robin CM Duncan avatar

    If you want to know more about VE Schwab, I recommend checking out her appearances on the Writing Excuses podcast as a guest of Brandon Sanderson, Mark Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells and Howard Tayler. I really enjoyed her advice on various topics over various episode appearances. She speaks very entertainingly, and insightfully about writing.