• Mark Iles

Blog Tour: C. R. Berry, Interviewed by Ira Nayman


In your biography, you say that you're not a tin hat wearer, yet your books are full of conspiracies. What is the attraction to you as a writer?

I like conspiracy theories for the same reason I like conspiracy fiction. They're great stories. I like imagining that history as we know it is a lie, that events didn't happen like we were told, that things are not what they seem. I like imagining that the things people perceive as being good or innocuous are actually dodgy as fuck. I also LOVE villains. The villain of a story is always the most interesting to me. In a conspiracy story, the villains are everywhere.


What do you think the attraction of conspiracy stories is to readers?

Conspiracy thrillers are mysteries, and everybody loves a good mystery. But the way a conspiracy story unfolds is different to a normal whodunit. In a conspiracy story, characters pull on a single thread and start unravelling something that gets bigger and higher-stakes as the story goes on. Haha, how appropriate that I called Million Eyes II "The Unraveller"!

So many conspiracy stories start small, often with cops investigating a single incident and later discovering an almighty network of bad'uns whose schemes have global implications. There's also that sense of paranoia, that idea that no one can be trusted and everybody's out to get you. It gets people's adrenaline pumping.


Your stories sound like wild rides with a variety of disparate elements. How do you decide what to throw into the mix? Is there anything you considered, then thought, "Naah! That would be going too far!"?

Haha, not really! I put Princess Diana's death into Million Eyes even though I knew it would be controversial. But there was never a version of Million Eyes without her. Diana's death was the main conspiracy theory I knew I wanted to weave into the mix, partly because I myself was fascinated by the unanswered questions about what went on that night.

Similarly, I put Jesus into Million Eyes II: The Unraveller even though he's a revered figure by many and my book says that everything the Church teaches about him is a misinterpretation of what actually happened. But I wanted to do this simply because I thought it would be fun to offer a different interpretation. I myself do not believe Jesus was a god, therefore I'm interested in where the stories about him, his miracles and his resurrection came from. Obviously, the interpretation I offer in Million Eyes II (clue: time travel's involved!) comes completely from my own head and I hope people don't take it too seriously. It's really just there as an entertaining "what if".


Time travel is central to your trilogy. How do you deal with the grandfather paradox, or the

general idea that time travel stories can get very complex very quickly?

I go by the rule that if you go back in time, you can change history and continue to exist, because the very act of travelling through time takes you outside the timestream, making you impervious to the effects of any changes. The idea that if a time traveller goes back and prevents their own birth, they themselves stop existing, just doesn't work logically in any of the stories it's depicted in - even my beloved Back to the Future.

In general though, time travel stories are very complex and I've had a ton of problems and headaches trying to get everything to fit together over the years. It's exactly why my next book after the Million Eyes trilogy isn't going to have a morsel of time travel in it!


In addition to your trilogy, you have a collection of short stories set in the same conceptual space. When were the stories written in relation to when the novels were written? What do the short stories add to the mythos of the novel trilogy?

The short stories have all been written at the same time as the novel trilogy, and I have one more left to write. They've been a way of weaving in mysteries and conspiracy theories that I'm interested in but just couldn't fit in the novel, such as the assassination of JFK, the Loch Ness Monster, the claim that Paul McCartney is a duplicate, and the mystery of the Green Children of Woolpit.

At the same time, I have been using the Million Eyes short stories to fill out the history of Million Eyes, the corporation, and show that, in fact, there are a whole load of other historical events that only happened because of them. You can find various references to the novels in the short stories and vice versa.

The first collection, Million Eyes: Extra Time, is available now as a free ebook, but I'm planning to release another six short stories as part of a second, shorter collection called Million Eyes: Over Time.


BONUS SILLY QUESTION:

If you were a flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?

I would be a mix of everything!!! Mainly because that's how I like to write my books. The Million Eyes trilogy is part science fiction, part historical fiction, part conspiracy thriller. My next book after that, The Puddle Bumps, will be an even bigger mix of genres - part conspiracy thriller, part legal thriller, part horror, part science fiction, part detective fiction, part kitchen sink! Why stick to one genre when you can throw in them all, I say.


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.


Blurb

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

April 2nd 2027

"Do you think your colleague could be…" A pinch of dread swallowed the rest of his sentence.

"Dead?"

"Yeah."

Lester nodded solemnly. "I hope not. But I'm afraid she might be."

"I'm sorry."

Lester sniffed. "Me too." She lifted her gaze to Adam. "They've won this round. I'll make sure I win the next." Her voice was earnest.

"And you think 'they' are Million Eyes?"

"Yes."

"Because of Jennifer's letters?"

Lester nodded.

Adam swallowed. "Can I see them?"

"Yes, of course." Lester glanced around, double checking that there was no one in the immediate vicinity. Adam could see a dog walker a couple of hundred metres down the path by the lake, the occasional cyclist speeding past on the cycleway about ten metres behind them. She opened her shoulder bag and lifted out a large black leather display book. Lifting the magnetic fastener, she opened it to reveal a series of sheets of paper tucked into transparent plastic sleeves.

The paper looked old. Glancing at the first page, Adam saw that it was cracked and mostly yellow, flecked with brown, the colour darkening at the edges and along the two horizontal creases that suggested it had been folded into three. On it was a paragraph of partly faded but still legible handwriting that wasn't English. At the bottom of the sleeve was a strip of white, much newer paper with a paragraph of small, typed-up words that were in English.

"In here are four letters, all written on parchment by Jennifer, in Modern English," said Lester. "The first page is a brief cover note of instructions, which was written in Latin by someone else. No name is given but I suspect it may have been a priest Jennifer knew. It was normally only priests who were literate in those days, and Jennifer does mention one in her letters." Lester handed the book to Adam, pointing to the newer strip of paper in the first sleeve. "That's my translation of the Latin note."

"Who are the letters to?"

"Jennifer's younger self."

Adam squirmed on the bench, uneasy.

"They were written at different points in her life, then they were folded and sealed with wax-a

practice that was only conducted by the elite at that time. They were placed in a box with the note of instructions, which was folded but not sealed. My team found this box during an excavation of Cawston Manor in the New Forest last year."

"So other people have seen these letters?"

"A couple of the team at the dig saw them - briefly. As soon as I understood what I was looking at, I thought it best to keep a tight lid on this and took personal custody of them. I analysed them and determined their age myself using carbon testing. And I omitted them from the excavation report."

"So you stole them?"

"I borrowed them. Million Eyes could have eyes inside LIPA for all I know. Until I know how far their influence stretches, these letters stay with me." Lester tucked her hand inside her shoulder bag, pulled out a wodge of paperwork. "Do you want to read the carbon dating report? You'll see that the letters really are nine hundred years old."

A carbon dating report was the last thing Adam was interested in right now. "I'll read the letters first."

"By all means."

Chewing on his lip, he read Lester's translation of the brief, anonymous Latin note of instructions.

It is imperative that these letters be delivered, unbroken, to Jennifer Larson at 35 The Birches, Deepwater, Hampshire, DP25 9JK on 11th September 2019. If for any reason they cannot be delivered to Jennifer Larson, please deliver them instead to Adam Bryant at 82 Whetstone Road, Deepwater, Hampshire, DP25 2QR on the same date.

Swallowing, Adam turned the page to the first of Jennifer's letters.

Oh my God. He felt a flutter of emotion beneath his breastbone. It was Jennifer's writing. He knew that untidy scrawl anywhere.

Don't get ahead of yourself, Adam. This woman could've copied Jennifer's handwriting. There was still a chance he was being played.

He took a breath and started reading.


Links

web site: https://crberryauthor.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CRBerry1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CRBerry1/


Million Eyes: https://elsewhen.press/index.php/catalogue/title/million-eyes/

Million Eyes: Extra Time: https://elsewhen.press/index.php/catalogue/title/million-eyes-extra-time/

Million Eyes II: The Unravellerhttps://www.amazon.com/Million-Eyes-Unraveller-C-R-Berry-ebook/dp/B09FVM1P3P/

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