Sarah Udoh-Grossfurthner interviews C.R. Berry: "who started in police stations and courtrooms “ahem, as a lawyer, not a defendant.”
IS TIME REALLY THE ULTIMATE SAVIOR? This is the underlying question in C.R. Berry’s The Unraveller – the latest in his Million Eyes Trilogy
Sarah Udoh-Grossfurthner interviews C.R. Berry: “who started in police stations and courtrooms “ahem, as a lawyer, not a defendant.”
Sarah: Hey, C.R., welcome to our time together
today.C.R. Berry: Great to be here!
Sarah: So, C.R., I had a look at your…shall we say, life scoreboard…and learned that in addition to your many achievements, including publication in Newcon Press’s Best of British Science Fiction 2020, and becoming head of content for a software developer, you’re also a big fan of conspiracy theories such as Flat Earth and the Royal Family being lizards—although I’m aware you’re not actually a tinfoil hat wearer yourself! Seeing as the purpose of our talk today is about your writing – specifically the publication of your latest book, Million Eyes II: The Unraveller – how do you find time to wear the many hats (pun of course not intended) that you do?
C.R. Berry: I find there’s never enough time for all the things I want to do. Maybe that’s why I write about time and time travel… I’m luckier than some, though. I don’t yet have kids, and I work three days a week for the software developer, which allows me time to work on my fiction and write about conspiracy theories. And yes, I’ve always loved conspiracy theories, even though I don’t believe most of them. They’re fun “what-if” scenarios, and I like the idea of an all-powerful corporate or governmental villain pulling strings from the shadows.
Sarah: Can you summarise the storyline of Million Eyes: The Unraveller for us in a couple of sentences, please?
C.R. Berry: Million Eyes II: The Unraveller is the second book in the Million Eyes trilogy and follows two characters, Dr Samantha Lester and Adam Bryant, as they investigate links between a bizarre archaeological discovery in East London, the company Adam works for, Million Eyes, and the disappearance of Adam’s best friend, Jennifer—who was the main character in book one. Meanwhile, there’s an individual known only as the Unraveller bouncing around history trying to kill critical historical figures such as Jesus himself and stop Million Eyes from coming into being.
Sarah: We had learnt that you were once a lawyer before you became a full-time writer. Are the Million Eyes books inspired by an actual, real-life courtroom drama?
C.R. Berry: Haha, no! The Million Eyes series is hopefully much more fun and interesting than that! While some of my cases were juicy and dark, most were by the numbers and dull.
That said, the Million Eyes books are conspiracy thrillers, and conspiracy thrillers are about lies and deception being all around you. There were definitely times when I felt that way as a lawyer. Clients lied. Witnesses lied. Even police officers lied—yes, it does happen, more often than people like to admit. I had a case once where the police lied through their teeth to make my client look guilty, not knowing that my client had made a recording of what really happened.
A common theme in conspiracy thrillers is “trust no one”, so I guess my experiences as a lawyer may have fed into that.
Sarah: We have also learned that you are currently also a content head at a software company in addition to creative writing. Now, I can understand going from courtroom to writing detective fiction – a courtroom could be a veritable hotbed for the kinds of drama that makes for a fantastic whodunit – but switching from that to heading software content writing? How do you manage the drama of the one and the level-headedness of the other simultaneously? How do you make both works out satisfactorily?
C.R. Berry: I think I’m appreciative of the fact that it’s still writing. Sure, writing about conspiracies and time travel is more fun than writing about software. Still, the company I work for is lively and progressive, and they like their blogs to have humour and pop culture references, so I still get to play around and be creative with the content I do for them.
Sarah: Have you always wanted to write? If yes, why did you start off with the legal profession?
C.R. Berry: Because I love villains! And criminal lawyers get to hang out with them! Haha, the more serious answer is that none of my teachers in school or college steered me towards writing as a career. I had never even heard of copywriting when I was in school. We were all encouraged to look at traditional academic professions, and for someone who was good at English and History, like I was, law was an obvious path to take. However, law was never a passion for me. I chose it because I’d seen trials on TV and thought—yeah, I could do that. That’d be fun. But writing? I’ve been doing that since I was four and will do it till I die. It’s in my blood.
Sarah: Often people say once a president always a president, once a doctor, always a doctor, etcetera, etcetera, is the legal profession over for you for good? Or, do you see yourself returning to the courtroom one day in the future?
C.R. Berry: You say that, but, again, I’ve never had a passion for law. I was a lawyer because I enjoyed it, and it was fun. I wasn’t a lawyer because it was inherently me. Writing is inherently me. So yes, the legal profession is definitely behind me. I’ve moved on, and I like where I am now.
Sarah: What are you currently working on, that is, what comes after Million Eyes II: The Unraveller?
C.R. Berry: Million Eyes III: Ouroboros! This will be the third and final book in the Million Eyes trilogy. At the time of this interview, I’m about two-thirds of the way through it, so my hope is that it will be released sometime later next year or early 2023. I’m also working on another series of short stories set in the Million Eyes universe, a follow-up to the collection Million Eyes: Extra Time. These are also time travel conspiracy stories and incorporate events such as the assassination of JFK; the ‘Paul McCartney is Dead’ conspiracy theory, and the mystery of the Green Children of Woolpit.
After that, I’ll be working on a new conspiracy horror novel called The Puddle Bumps. As it happens, this will incorporate some of my experiences as a defence lawyer and some of the darkness and nastiness I encountered during that time.
Sarah: As a courtroom lawyer, what did you hope those listening to you would take away with them at the end of your every argument in court? In contrast, as a writer, what would you like people to take away after reading your book – any of your books?
C.R. Berry: In court, my role was to get the magistrates to be sceptical of the prosecution’s arguments, to make them aware of evidence or circumstances that cast doubt on my client’s guilt or the extent of their guilt. In a way, that’s the same thing I’d like people to take away from Million Eyes. As in, don’t just blindly accept everything you’re told without checking it. Not all sources can be trusted. There’s a lot of discussion in the first and second books about belief, reason and healthy scepticism. Indeed, Jesus’s storyline in Million Eyes II: The Unraveller derives from my scepticism about the reliability of the gospels as historical accounts. I also think that the message about checking sources and not accepting things on faith is very relevant right now when misinformation is rife, and people fall for all sorts of garbage about Covid and vaccines.
Sarah: This was a quick interview, C.R., so I am afraid our time together is almost over. Before we wrap up, though – one final question, please. I know you already wear many hats (there goes the hat thing again, I know, but bear with me, please); if you could not do any of the things you do now, or that you have done so far, what else would you have loved to do?
C.R. Berry: I would’ve loved to have done a history degree or a degree in film or filmmaking, and I probably would’ve enjoyed generally getting into the film industry. I’m inspired by TV and movies; that’s where most of my ideas for my books come from. Million Eyes has bits of Back to the Future, Doctor Who, Star Trek, 24, Damages, Prison Break, and probably loads more.
Sarah: C.R., it’s been lovely hosting you on my blog today. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. My readers and I wish you the very best with Million Eyes II: The Unraveller.
C.R. Berry: Thanks for having me!
Excerpt 5 – Million Eyes II: The Unraveller
December 15th 33
“Are you all right, my love?”
Joseph of Arimathea’s mind was elsewhere and his wife’s question glanced off him. He sat at the stern of the ship, looking out to sea, remembering.
Sapphira came and sat beside him. She placed her warm gloved hands over his, which were cold and bare. It was a grey, wintry day—getting colder and windier as they got further north—so that warmth felt good.
“What is it?” she said softly.
Finally hearing her, Joseph lifted his gaze from the water to her smiling face. “Just… thinking.”
“Yes. I keep… seeing him. When I sleep. When I wake. When I look at you, the children. Dying on that cross. Bleeding. Murmuring in desperate pain.”
Sapphira removed a glove and stroked his face with her fingers. “I know his crucifixion still haunts you. But time and prayer will heal it. I promise it will.”
“What disturbs me most is the injustice. Jesus the Prophet came to save us and look how we repaid him.”
“We? You did nothing.”
“Precisely. I did nothing.”
“Joseph, listen to me. We have been over this. There was nothing you could do. You were not to know who was involved in the conspiracy.”
“I could have questioned Caiaphas about it. Found out which apostles he was working with.”
“He would never have told you. And he might have suspected your allegiance to Jesus. You could not have risked that.”
“Why not? We would have been in the same position that we are now.”
“Perhaps not. Perhaps they would have nailed you to a cross before we were able to make our escape.”
Joseph looked deep into his wife’s gentle grey eyes. Were their roles reversed, would he have shown such loyalty to her as she to him? It was unwavering. And this was in spite of the fact that he had completely uprooted their family.
He looked over at his children. His son and three youngest daughters were at the bow of the ship playing with little wooden jackals, lions, donkeys and people, which they had sculpted themselves. His eldest daughter, Tabitha, was talking to one of his oarsmen and looking up at the sails; it looked like he was explaining to her how they worked.
His eyes back on Sapphira, “So you do not blame me? For forcing our family to leave our home?”
Sapphira shook her head. “You did not force us to leave. They did.”
“Yes. Because I allied myself with Jesus.”
“Are you saying you regret that?”
Joseph sighed and admitted, quietly, “No.”
“Good. Nor should you. You are a good man, Joseph. There is no doubt in my mind that you did the right thing by supporting Jesus in his ministry. You said so yourself. He came to save us. He came to prevent the Last War. And we cannot let him down. We must continue his work. You know this. Do not lose your conviction now.”
Joseph looked over at the lead chest that housed and protected the earthenware jar containing Jesus’s scrolls, entrusted to him by his late friend shortly before his death.
Sapphira was right. They had come all this way. If Sapphira’s faith in him could be unwavering, then so could his in their mission. In fact, he owed it to her to make sure it was. Upending their family’s lives and putting them all at risk had to be worth it. Had to be.
“Father, look!” cried Tabitha, pointing across the water.
Joseph stood up and followed Tabitha’s gaze. Their destination beckoned. The rugged coastline of the Britannic Isles, all towering cliffs, deep caves, steep, grassy slopes, and huge stacks of jagged rocks strewn over yellow beaches. He remembered it well.
Joseph bade his oarsmen to steer the ship around the headland. He smiled and kissed Sapphira, then walked to the bow of the ship where his children were. Tabitha had joined them and all five were staring at the approaching land.
“Do we have to live here, Father?” said his youngest, Abigail.
He looked at her. Even though she was wrapped in a huge fur cloak, her little face disappearing into its folds, she was shivering. The temperature had definitely dropped in the last hour.
Joseph went and sat with her. She huddled close to him for warmth. “We do, my love,” he said. “I have been here many times, done much trade with the people who live here. And I have friends here. We will be safe.”
“But it’s so cold here. Did you have to bring us somewhere so cold?”
“It isn’t always this cold, Abigail. It is winter. But the Britons are used to these temperatures and well equipped to withstand them, and the winds and snow.”
Her voice shrill with alarm, “Snow?” There had been no snowfall in Jerusalem in quite a number of years and, being only four, Abigail had never seen a flake of it. Joseph had no doubt that this winter, in their new home, she would experience her first snow.
Joseph smiled. “Trust me. You will get used to it in time.”
She sighed. He kissed the top of her head and hoped to God that he was right. That his children would one day be happy here.
Because there was no going back to Judaea.
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.
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Million Eyes is OUT NOW from Elsewhen Press
A fast-paced sci-fi conspiracy thriller about power, corruption and destiny
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