Anybody who’s been around me for roughly one minute will know that I love action and suspense. That’s why when I heard C.R. Berry was doing a blog tour for his sci-fi techno-thriller, Million Eyes II, I had to get in on it. Below, we’re chatting about fave tropes, books, and building suspense, plus I’ve got a great excerpt for you that puts all of Berry’s theory into practice.
What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of writing? Do they lead into the work you’re doing on the Million Eyes series, and if so, how?
I’m a big movie/TV fan, more than I am a reader. I know it’s uncommon to hear a writersay that! Although I do read, it takes a lot longer to absorb a story in book form,whereas if you watch a movie, you get the whole story in a couple of hours. I’m a big fan of Star Trek, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Dark, Lost, 24, Watchmen. TheAlien, Thing, Scream, Halloween, Hunger Games and Back to the Future movies. Loadsmore I’m forgetting. More recently I became a big fan of the Fear Street movies and can’t wait to watch those again. Mostly sci-fi, horror and thrillers, I guess. Oh, and Disney movies!
And yes, these have inspired the Million Eyes series, particularly those movies and TV series that feature time travel.
What are some of your favorite books, and how have they influenced your work?
The book that comes to mind is Library of the Dead by Glenn Cooper. I loved that, and there are definite similarities with Million Eyes. It’s part conspiracy thriller, with cops chasing a serial killer with connections to a government cover-up involving a mysterious library; part historical fiction with a storyline set in Anglo-Saxon times following a monk and a strange little boy; and part sci-fi as regards the nature of the library and how it came to be. The Million Eyes books are also hybrid sci-fi historical conspiracy thrillers with a similar jigsaw-puzzle-like structure.
Everyone has a few tropes that are a guilty pleasure when reading. What are some tropes that you just can’t put down?
Time travel! Although is time travel a guilty pleasure? Everyone loves time travel! That’s why it’s such a popular plot device that comes back time and time again—pun intended. Conspiracies, too. I love a network of villains rather than a singular bad guy. Also, I prefer a bad girl to a bad guy. Perhaps because they’re just aren’t enough female villains, but also because, well, they’re just more interesting, aren’t they? Million Eyes has a great central villain in Erica Morgan, the CEO of the eponymous evil corporation.
Of course, that’s not to say I only enjoy female antagonists. I love female protagonists, too, and the gender imbalance in the genres I enjoy is a source of perpetual frustration for me (looking at you, Dan Brown). I’ve made an effort to turn the trend on its head in
the Million Eyes trilogy—not always easy considering the real historical events I’m incorporating. Million Eyes II: The Unraveller has got the ministry of Jesus, the Gunpowder Plot, the disappearance of Flight 19—all events involving men. So I’ve tried to incorporate as many female characters as possible outside of these necessary historical figures. I’m also happy to report that the vast majority of the chapters in Million Eyes III: Ouroboros are from a female point of view.
Do you have any advice for my readers on how to craft an exciting narrative? What’s your approach to writing action and suspense that keeps readers on the edge of their seats?
I do a few things. First, I try to keep the pace of my writing fast. I’m careful to avoid lengthy description of places and things. I’m not trying to write a piece of art and therefore I don’t need to use fancy words and sentences. That’s not to say I don’t try to make my prose interesting. I tend to reflect how people speak, particularly as I usually write in very close third person. So, if I’m doing a suspenseful action scene, I try and get right inside my characters’ heads. I put myself in their position and imagine what they must be feeling in those moments. I will also do quite a lot of research into how similar action scenes are written. For example, in Million Eyes II: The Unraveller, I wrote my first car chase. I had read somewhere that car chases in books aren’t nearly as good as they are in films, so I wanted to challenge that. I collected a few examples, picked up how they’re done, and took bits I could use. I’m hoping I’ve succeeded in creating a rather exciting car chase, but I’ll let you be the judge of that!
Thanks, C.R.! This has been great! You learn more about Million Eyes II at: C.R. Berry – Author of sci-fi & fantasy conspiracy thrillers (crberryauthor.com), on Twitter and Facebook, through his monthly newsletter, or better yet, buy the books directly:
Free download of Million Eyes: Extra Time, 12 time-twisting tales set in the world of the Million Eyes trilogy
September 19th 993
As Cuthwulf moved on to the next patient, the infirmary door opened and a man
entered. He was in a long, black habit and Cuthwulf presumed him to be a fellow
brother. However, his hood was up and hung low over his brow, so that the light in the
room barely touched his eyes, and his habit was somewhat different to everyone else’s.
What Cuthwulf could see of his face he didn’t recognise.
“Brother Cuthwulf?” said the man, looking at him.
Cuthwulf frowned. “Yes. Who are you?”
“You must come with me.”
The Hooded Man’s gaze jerked to one of the beds behind Cuthwulf. Cuthwulf
heard movement from the bed and turned around to see that one of the new patients
had risen from it and stood facing him. She had a young, well-cared-for face and wore
an ankle-length, pale blue tunic, fastened at the waist with a girdle, and a white
headscarf that was draped over her shoulders. Her arm was outstretched towards him
and a strange silver object was in her hand.
Cuthwulf glanced back at the Hooded Man, who was clasping a similar-looking
object and pointing it at the woman.
“Brother Cuthwulf, leave the infirmary,” he said. “Quickly.”
“I will not! Who are you?” He looked at the woman. “And who are you?”
The Hooded Man’s eyes were fixed on the woman, as hers were on him.
“Cuthwulf, it is for your own safety. This woman wants to kill you.”
“What?” His stomach turned with dread. “Why?”
“Cuthwulf, please just do as I—no, stop!”
Cuthwulf looked back at the woman and saw Brother Rhys leap at her from
behind, the two of them tumbling forwards onto the stone floor. In that moment, a surge
of light—as bright and dazzling as a flash of lightning yet with an unusual green
hue—erupted from the tip of the silver object in the woman’s hand and streaked across
the room with a shrill hiss, making the Hooded Man duck. The surge of light struck one
of the infirmary’s windows, shattering it.
Swallowing hard, Cuthwulf backed away from this incredible display of power.
The woman and Brother Rhys grappled on the floor. Cuthwulf understood
Brother Rhys’s desire to protect his mentor, but his heroism in the face of such a potent
enemy was reckless and going to get him killed.
The Hooded Man straightened and re-pointed what was likely a similar weapon
to the woman’s, then another green burst of light knifed through the air, just missing
him as it blazed into the wall with a crack, scattering dust and stone chips. The Hooded
Man dived for cover behind one of the beds, the patient lying in it apparently sleeping
soundly through this utter mayhem.
The woman turned on the floor and kicked Brother Rhys square in the jaw,
sending him hurtling backwards and crashing into a table topped with cups, pots, jugs
and vials. The table was overturned, receptables emptying herbs and medicines all over
Now the woman was looking at Cuthwulf with a piercing glare. She got to her
feet and raised her weapon.
Cuthwulf closed his eyes and held his breath. His heart raced. Sweat collected
around his neck.
“Cuthwulf, get down!”
Cuthwulf opened his eyes as the Hooded Man peeked quickly over the top of the
bed that was shielding him and fired a beam of green light in the woman’s direction.
Cuthwulf didn’t see if the beam had hit her because he’d plunged to his knees as per the
Hooded Man’s instruction and crawled behind the bed that belonged to Ulric. Ulric, too,
was out of bed and crouched down on the floor.
“What is this madness, Cuthwulf?” Ulric said, pale as a corpse and breathing
Cuthwulf shook his head. “I wish I knew.”
Suddenly the room was doused in dazzling white light and Cuthwulf was blind.
He felt a bite of panic that he’d lost his sight forever, then the infirmary started slowly
coming back into view. Thank the Lord.
“W-what was that?” said Ulric.
Cuthwulf just shook his head.
The Hooded Man came and stood over them. “It’s all right. We’re safe now.
Cuthwulf stood, clutching his chest and trying to steady his breaths. “Gone
“That’s difficult to explain.”