Ryan: Thanks so much for joining us, C.R. I was excited to share this feature as soon as I read through the Million Eyes submission. Why don’t you take us through the genesis of Million Eyes. How did you develop the idea that so closely ties history, conspiracy theories, and time travel?
CR Berry: It started with Princess Diana. The genesis of Million Eyes goes back to 2007, the time of the inquest into Diana’s death. I was fascinated by some of the unanswered questions swirling about that fateful night. Who was driving the mysterious white Fiat Uno that has never been traced? Why were none of the CCTV cameras working? What was the bright white flash that several witnesses reported seeing? Were Henri Paul’s blood results swapped with those of a dead drunk driver?
What I decided to do was take all those questions and make up my own answers—with a sci-fi twist. I was inspired by a US TV show called Dark Skies from the 90s. This took events from American history and ‘explained what really happened’. I decided to do the same with British history. In Dark Skies, it was aliens. In Million Eyes, it’s time travel.
Ryan: And what led you to settle on time travel as the ‘explanation’?
CR Berry: Two reasons. One, I just LOVE it. I’ve been incorporating time travel into my writing since I was small, mainly because of Star Trek, Doctor Who and Back to the Future. Two, there were a couple of other events I wanted to ‘explain’. The disappearance of the Princes in the Tower in 1483 is one of Britain’s most enduring mysteries. The twelve-year-old heir to the throne and his brother were imprisoned in the Tower of London and both vanished thereafter, their bodies never found. And then there was the ‘accidental’ shooting of King William II in 1100, which a lot of historians think was not an accident at all.
Since these events—and Diana’s death—were hundreds of years apart, time travel seemed the most logical way of tying them together.
Ryan: Time travel has always been one of those Sci-Fi tropes that is incredibly difficult to get right – and feedback and reviews on Million Eyes tells us you passed that test. When you began tackling it, were there certain things you wanted to keep in mind. Inspirations? Or examples that you learned from?
CR Berry: I mostly followed the way time travel has been depicted in Star Trek. Star Trek: First Contact was a key influence, i.e. when the Borg assimilate Earth in the past and the Enterprise has to go back and, as Picard puts it, “repair whatever damage they’ve done”. But I also love a good paradox and there was an opportunity with Million Eyes to explore these as well. I love that Skynet in the Terminator films was created from itself; that a talking ape travelling to the past inspired the talking apes of the future in the original Planet of the Apes films; and that most of the events of Lost are part of one big cycle.
What I mainly needed to keep in mind were the time travel rules I’d chosen, and making sure I adhered to them. I actually wrote an article all about how to write time travel for Nothing in the Rulebook. That goes into lots of great detail about the things you have to consider when writing time travel.
Ryan: Although Million Eyes is a work of fiction, you tackle real-life issues humanity deals with all over the world – abuses of power, corruption, destiny. Is there a specific message you want your readers take away from your work?
CR Berry: To be honest, my goal with the Million Eyes trilogy is just to tell fun and exciting stories that people will enjoy. Yes, the books deal with corruption and abuses of power, particularly big corporations spying on us and controlling us. But if you took that to mean that that’s something I’m worried about, you’d be mistaken. I’m not a tin-foil-hat-wearer. I know governments and corporations overstep on global surveillance and corruption in the highest echelons of society does happen. But am I concerned about the pervasiveness of technology? Not really. Do I think that there’s a ‘deep state’ or ‘New World Order’ controlling everything and everyone? Nah. Million Eyes plays on fears about these things but in a way that is so far-fetched, it could almost be seen as a parody of those conspiracy theories.
So I guess, if anything, my message is: don’t take conspiracy theories too seriously. Treat them like stories, highly entertaining ones, and don’t get hung up on whether they might be true or not.
Ryan: Tell us a little about your journey to writing and how it has influenced your work.
CR Berry: I’ve been writing since before I could actually write. What I mean is, I’ve always had a desire to create books and my four-year-old self would get my parents to write the words that accompanied my drawings, until I learned to write myself.
A lot of my early stories revolved around villains. I was always more enamoured with the villain of a story than the hero. I didn’t want to be Luke Skywalker and lift up rocks with Force powers. I wanted to be Emperor Palpatine and shoot blue lightning at people from my fingertips. (I promise I am a nice person…)
My obsession with villains is the reason I write conspiracy thrillers now. In a conspiracy thriller, there are lots of villains, and you don’t always know who’s a villain and who isn’t, which adds mystery and suspense. To me, an evil company, government, church or secret society is much scarier than a lone bad guy.
Ryan: Okay. We’re in the world of Million Eyes, and time travel is real. You’ve already saved the world and now it’s time for a vacation. Where are you going? Forward? Backwards? When and where?
CR Berry: I’m very nostalgic, so I’d love to go back and have tea with my granny again. She was the loveliest little lady. I’d also go back and relive a few old family holidays, and my college and uni days, which were loads of fun. Not my school days, though—they sucked.
But I think I would also be tempted to travel into the far future and see if humanity’s travelling the stars like in Star Trek, or if Earth’s a desolate wasteland populated by zombies. And I’d like to know if religion still exists centuries from now, and if we’re all still divided up into separate countries, or if we’re simply Earth—one planet, one people, one government.
Or perhaps I’d just skip forwards to 2021 and find out if we’ve kicked COVID’s butt, Trump is gone and ‘social distancing’ is that ‘funny thing we all did last year’. What about you?
Ryan: Me? Hell, its 2020. Going anywhere else can’t be any worse than this! Thanks so much for joining us and we hope to welcome you back for the release of the next book in the Million Eyes trilogy.