• Mark Iles

An Interview with C.R.Berry, on the Release of 'Million Eyes II'

Updated: Nov 1


The Scribe is delighted to host C.R.Berry during his blog tour on the release of his novel, ‘Million Eyes II’. Our idea is to gleam something about the author’s background, and what makes him tick as a writer. Thanks, Christopher, for joining us today.

You’re very welcome.


Which authors did you follow when growing up, and do you think they inspired your work?

R.L. Stine was the main author I followed growing up. I adored the Goosebumps series and I read all his Point Horror novels as I got older, too. I guess I always thought I would become a horror writer. I was also an enormous fan of the Scream films when I was, ahem, 12. I did write a few horrors and slashers as a result of these influences but then—partly inspired by a writing project in school—I wrote a children’s fantasy novel called The Pendulum Swings, which had wizards, witches, dragons, monsters etc. Then I wrote a series of fantasy books for younger children called The East Pudding Chronicles, about the ‘alternative’ origins of Christmas traditions (when I say alternative, I mean dark and twisty and a little bit barmy). And of course, I’ve since shifted to sci-fi conspiracy thrillers for adults with the Million Eyes trilogy. However, when Million Eyes is finished, I plan to go back to horror—albeit for adults—with a book called The Puddle Bumps.

But even though I’ve been flitting about the genres since becoming an adult, R.L. Stine continues to influence me in the sense that his books were completely plot-driven. They were never about characters. My books are the same. I start with a story I want to tell, then I create the best characters to help me tell it. And while I enjoy writing for certain types of characters, particularly female ones, it’s not really them that interest me. It’s the crazy sci-fi things that happen to them.


Favourite writing quote?

“There is no such thing as an aspiring writer. You are a writer. Period.” This quote from Matthew Reilly always resonated with me. Even though “aspiring writer” is something I called myself for years, he’s absolutely right. I mean, when does an aspiring writer become an actual writer? When they’ve learned enough? When they’re published? Writers never stop learning, or improving, or trying. And not all writers even want to be published. So, either we’re all aspiring writers, or none of us are.


What was the first piece of work you had accepted for publication and when?

I had a couple of poems accepted when I was a teenager. I had my first short story accepted in

2015, and this was a Million Eyes short story called Who is Rudolph Fentz? based on the time travel urban legend (now published in the free collection from Elsewhen Press, Million Eyes: Extra Time). And then, of course, the first novel in the Million Eyes trilogy was finally accepted by Elsewhen Press in 2019.


Which book on writing would you recommend?

Personally, I don’t like to read books about writing for the same reason I wouldn’t do a creative writing course. The way I have learned is through attending two writers’ groups and getting feedback on my work, submitting my short stories to magazines and competitions and getting critiques, and of course, reading fiction.

Basically, I stay away from those who try and push “rules” on other writers. Sure, there are conventions, things you should try and do, ways of writing that don’t work as effectively for whatever reason. But there are no rules in fiction. There are some successful writers out there who can be rather bossy and dictatorial about what you should and shouldn’t do. I try to ignore them. Why? Because the biggest lesson I have learned is this: reading and writing are subjective. What one person hates and thinks is terrible, another could love and think is great.

Articles that say things like “never use adverbs” or “never use anything but ‘said’ to carry dialogue” really get my back up. In the writing world, there should only be “advice”, not “rules”. And even then, the advice is subjective, which is why I don’t think a creative writing degree would be particularly useful. I know writers who’ve done them and said afterwards that they felt like their creativity was being stifled.


I found Stephen King’s ‘On Writing, a memoire of the craft’ more of a diary of his own progress than a guide to success. Still, however, inspiring; and I wondered if you’d read it?

Nope, although now you’ve said that it’s more of a diary of his own progress, I might consider it. No disrespect to Stephen—he’s a phenomenally successful author—but he’s the guy who says, “Never use adverbs”. Poppycock. Adverbs have their place in literature just like anything else. Yes, you can overuse them, at which point you work becomes less show-y and more tell-y, but no one should be telling you to never use them. It’s your book. Do what the fuck you want.


Do you have a writing schedule, and if so do you stick to it – and how do you mitigate

interruptions?

I think I work best when I can schedule in a decent chunk of time to work on my fiction, like a morning/afternoon or better yet a whole day. I now work three days a week for a software company and it means that I have two full days each week to dedicate to my fiction, which is great. I’m not one of those writers who would be able to get much done in a half-hour commute or in a lunch break. As I work from home, and my partner and I don’t yet have kids, I have little to no distractions. I know that’s going to be a different story when the babies start rolling in!


Do you have the story clear in your mind prior to starting the work, or are you more of a pantser?

I’m one-hundred-percent a plotter. But as a time-travel writer, I can’t not be. With the Million Eyes books, there was no way I could write them without a detailed outline of everything that was going to happen. Not just in book one, but in books two and three as well. It’s because there are causal loops all over the shop. Stuff that happens at the end of Million Eyes and Million Eyes II: The Unraveller directly impact earlier scenes in the books. For example, in Million Eyes II: The Unraveller, you see scenes of the Unraveller trying to kill important figures in history, but these events actually happen after the plot involving my main characters has unfolded. This all needed careful planning to make sure the internal continuity was consistent.


Do you belong to a writing/critiquing group? (Which, how did you find it, is it rewarding etc)

I have belonged to Rushmoor Writers since the beginning of 2015, and I credit that group with helping me become the writer I am today. I’ve learned not just from receiving feedback but from giving it as well. I also belonged to a smaller writers’ group for a while, and my partner and I are planning to set up our own in the new year.

I would encourage all writers to join writers’ groups. Just Google writers’ groups in your local area and see what comes up. If nothing comes up, reach out to local writers on social media and start one. They’re the best way of getting feedback from a cross-section of people, and cheaper than paying for written critiques.



King once said, ‘if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.’ Do you agree with that and, if so, how do you keep up with your reading list?

Broadly, I agree. You need to read at least sometimes to be able to write. However, I don’t agree with writers who say you need to read at least as much as you write. I certainly don’t. For one, I mainly read because I should—for the betterment of my writing. I’m that very rare writer whose entertainment medium of choice is NOT books. Sure, when I get into a book, I enjoy it. But I don’t enjoy reading nearly as much as I enjoy watching a movie or TV series. Partly that’s because I’m an exceptionally slow reader, and takes me days and days to get through a single novel. But if I watch a film, I get to absorb a whole story in one sitting.

So yes, I agree with Stephen that you need to read to have the tools to write. But there are other places where you can get those tools, too, such as through having your work critiqued. And you certainly don’t need to read hundreds of books. I have to be very selective with my reading list, and I try and read different authors and different genres in order to compare and contrast different styles.


Blurb

TIME IS THE ULTIMATE SAVIOUR

Following an impossible discovery in East London, archaeologist Dr Samantha Lester joins forces with software developer Adam Bryant to investigate the events that led to the disappearance of his best friend, Jennifer, and to bring down the people responsible – Million Eyes.

Before long, Lester and Adam are drawn into a tangled conspiratorial web involving dinosaurs, the Gunpowder Plot, Jesus, the Bermuda Triangle, and a mysterious history-hopping individual called the Unraveller, who is determined to wipe Million Eyes off the temporal map.

But as the secrets of Million Eyes’ past are revealed, picking a side in this fight might not be so easy.


Excerpt 4 – Million Eyes II: The Unraveller

The screen faded to black. Lester went to sit next to Brody on the sofa.

“What do you want?” he said, eyes wide.

“I don’t know—to talk?”

Brody shook his head and huffed. “You haven’t wanted to talk to me in months. What’s changed?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean we’ve barely spoken since it happened. I’ve tried, you close up every time. It’s like you can’t even mention her name.”

Why was he doing this? “It’s just hard, okay.”

Brody’s voice went up in pitch and volume. “Oh, it’s hard, is it? Shit. If only I knew what you were going through.”

“Brody, don’t.”

“I’m sorry but it’s like you’ve forgotten about her—”

Lester interjected quickly and with resentment, “Of course I haven’t,” but her words were buried under his.

“—and you’ve switched your fucking feelings off or something. And it’s like I’m going through this on my own.”

Lester raised her voice to match his. “Trust me, you’re not.”

“Then why aren’t we comforting each other? Helping each other through it? You know, we haven’t touched each other since before Georgia died.”

She felt a spark of fury. “Are you serious? This is about sex? Our daughter’s dead and you’re worried about getting laid?”

“Oh fuck off, Sam.” Brody shot to his feet and stormed out of the room.

Lester followed him into the kitchen. Brody opened the Eat Now app on his MEpad, charging on the worksurface, and started perusing takeaway menus.

“What then?” she said.

He looked up. “Intimacy, Sam. I’m talking about intimacy. We both need it, now more than ever. Don’t we?”

She breathed a heavy sigh, shook her head. “I don’t know what we need.” She did, though. Help. Some kind of. Neither of them were coping. This conversation was proving it.

Her phone started buzzing in her pocket. She took it out and stepped into the hallway. It was Becca Tiedemann, one of the excavators at the dig in Tower Hamlets, for which she was project officer. Several weeks ago, construction workers digging the foundations for a new shopping centre had come upon some fossil fragments. LIPA was called in and Lester and her team were now lifting the remains of a previously unknown species of dinosaur out of its primeval bed. It was the sort of thing Lester would be bursting with excitement over, if she still got excited about anything.

“Hi Becca,” said Lester.

“Hey. You have to come see this.” She sounded elated, breathless.

“See what?” Lester could hear voices and hammering in the background and shot a glance at her watch. “Are you still on site?”

“Yeah. We’re all still here. No one wanted to go home.”

“Why? What have you found?”

“Probably better that you see it for yourself. Can you come?”

Lester’s gaze drifted towards the kitchen. She knew Brody was in there stewing. It was a bad time to head out.

But she needed a distraction right now. “Yeah. I’ll be there. Are you going to give me a hint?”

“Sure. We’ve found something… impossible.”

Lester’s curiosity surged. “Okay. I’ll be there soon.”

Hanging up and stepping into the kitchen, “I have to go.”

Refusing to look up from the MEpad, Brody replied dourly, “Yeah, I heard. Dinner for one, then.”

“We’ll pick this up later, okay?”

“Mm-hmm.”

She sighed and got ready to leave. She wasn’t sure what else to say.




Forty minutes later, Lester arrived at the dig site in Tower Hamlets. The dusk had thickened into night but the floodlights they’d erected around the site were so bright it would’ve been easy to mistake it for the middle of the day. Lester parked in the road and walked to the edge of the deep open pit where she could see her two-dozen-strong excavation team working away purposefully. There was no evidence that anyone was packing up and going home any time soon.

She climbed down one of several ladders placed around the perimeter and walked over to the

dinosaur skeleton. Her team having removed most of the overburden, the contour of the creature was visible, the bones partly poking through their rock encasements like a body touching the surface of a lake. It was lying on its right side, its skull long and narrow, its tail stretched out. At somewhere between eighty and ninety percent complete, it was remarkably preserved, early visual inspection suggesting that it might be a close relation of the Spinosaurus.

Lester surveyed the scene. Some of the excavators were bringing the still-buried leg bones to the surface with chisels and rock hammers. Others were using knives, awls and brushes to dislodge and scrape rock and loose sediment from between the long bones that protruded from the spinal column, and a few had started trenching around the sufficiently unearthed parts of the skeleton, removing earth from beneath and around the bones and their surrounding matrix so that they sat on pedestals; at that point they would be wrapped in protective plaster jackets in order to be removed and transported safely.

However, most of the team, including Becca, were currently huddled around the area just below the creature’s ribcage, where its stomach would’ve been.

Becca looked up when she heard Lester’s footsteps crunching over the bedrock. “Hey, Sam. This is going to blow your mind.”

Lester stepped closer. When she saw it, the blood in her veins froze. “My God.”

“Yeah,” said Becca. “I know.”


Chris Berry Bio

C.R. Berry started out in police stations and courtrooms—ahem, as a lawyer, not a defendant—before taking up writing full-time. He’s currently head of content for a software developer and writes fiction about conspiracies and time travel. (Note: he’s not a tin foil hat wearer, doesn’t

believe 9/11 was an inside job, and thinks that anyone who believes the Earth is flat or the Royal Family are alien lizards needs to have their heads examined.)

Berry was published in Best of British Science Fiction 2020 from Newcon Press with a Million Eyes short story. He’s also been published in magazines and anthologies such as Storgy and Dark Tales, and in 2018 was shortlisted in the Grindstone Literary International Novel Competition.

In 2021, he bought his first house with his girlfriend, Katherine, in Clanfield, Hampshire, discovering whole new levels of stress renovating it (not helped by a rogue builder running off with most of their budget). The couple are now in the fun stage, going full-on nerd and theming all the rooms—their bedroom is a spaceship, their kitchen a 50s diner.

Now that the dust is settling, Berry is refocusing on the final book in the Million Eyes trilogy and getting back to writing his first collaborative novel with Katherine: a space-set adventure with aliens, terrorists, a mysterious wall that surrounds the universe and—of course—conspiracies.


Website: C.R. Berry – Author of sci-fi & fantasy conspiracy thrillers (crberryauthor.com)

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My novel Million Eyes is OUT NOW from Elsewhen Press

A fast-paced sci-fi conspiracy thriller about power, corruption and destiny

My short story collection Million Eyes: Extra Time is available for FREE download

12 time-twisting tales set in the world of the Million Eyes trilogy


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