Interview with William Hern, author of CHRONOS

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Doodles, doodles everywhere congratulates author William Hern on the release of his techno-thriller, CHRONOS! Let's welcome him on the blog for an interview today. Read on!

1. How did you decide to write CHRONOS?

I’ve long wanted to challenge myself and write a book of some sort. Over the course of my career in the telecoms/computing industries I have done a lot of technical writing so doing a non-fiction book didn’t feel like much of a challenge. Writing a novel, on the other hand, did feel as if it would be quite challenging as I hadn’t written any fiction since my school days!

I settled on the techno-thriller genre as I have worked in the telecoms and computer software industries for over twenty years and so have seen at first hand the impact that recent technological advances have had on every day life. Some of them - most of them in fact - are positive, but others are not. It’s this balance that I wanted to explore in a novel  and by making it a thriller my goal was to make it as entertaining as possible.

The writing of CHRONOS began in earnest in late 2013 when I took part in the November Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) event. The goal of this challenge is to write a complete draft of a story, at least fifty thousands words in length, from scratch during the thirty days of the month. So, starting on November 1st 2013, I sat down and forced myself to write at least a thousand words a day, and more often than not two thousand. It certainly wasn’t easy (all I had really thought out in advance was the main theme of the story and the opening chapter) and there wasn’t a whole lot of time for plotting out the story in advance of actually writing it. However, by the end of the month, I had a reasonably complete first draft of nearly sixty-thousand words, with a beginning, a middle and an end.

(By the way, one thing I didn’t have at this stage was a title for the book - I simply called it UNN, short for "Untitled November Novel”. The actual title of the book wouldn’t get decided until much later.)

I then locked the draft away and didn’t look at it again until the middle of April 2014. This allowed me to get some distance from what I had written and so more honestly critique it. I then started the long, painful, process of revising the story, working through it chapter by chapter. I went through multiple iterations of revisions and finally released the book as a free-to-download ebook in November 2015. The printed version became available in January 2016.

2. Can you tell us what kind of research went behind CHRONOS?

I had to do a lot of investigation into crypto-currencies in order to make the details of the central technology, the Cube electronic currency, plausible. This required lots of reading as well as actual experimentation - for six months I reconfigured my main computer and turned it into a Bitcoin server so that I could gain hands-on experience with a real crypto-currency. For anyone interested in learning more about these technologies, I include a references section at the end of my book that provides lots of pointers.

3. Do you decide the character traits before you sit down to write the book, or as you go along?

From the outset I knew the identities and basic characteristics of my three main characters - Faiza, Max and Tom - but everyone else had to thought up as I went along. It made for a lot of on-the-spot improvisation of characterisation!

4. Who's your favorite character from CHRONOS and why?

I must confess to having a soft spot for Heath Buckeridge, the head of the digital rights pressure group that Max works for. When Max goes missing, it’s Buckeridge who becomes increasingly involved in the search. He’s someone with considerable power and influence, someone who Tom and Faiza can turn to for help when they reach a dead-end in their search for Max.

I like writing dialogue for extrovert, larger-than-life, characters and Buckeridge definitely falls into that category. He talks very loudly, particularly when he is excited. He dresses immaculately, as all true gentlemen should, and quite flamboyantly too! I like to imagine that, despite his close ties to the world of high technology, deep-down he wishes that he had been born in the Victorian era.

Heath’s name comes from the name of the solicitors that my wife and I used to negotiate the purchase of our first house together (they’ve since been acquired by another firm and so have changed their name). I remember seeing the name displayed on the side of the firm’s offices and thinking that it would make a fabulous name for a story character. CHRONOS was my first chance to actually use it!

5. How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?

I’m not sure that I did! There was so much going on with getting books out to those who had ordered copies - I am handling all the publishing myself - that I haven’t had the time to celebrate! Maybe I’ll open a bottle of Champagne when (if?) I manage to sell a thousand physical copies of my book!

6. Tell us about some of the biggest challenges or learning experiences you faced throughout the writing and publishing process.

It really surprised me just how different publishing a printed book is compared to releasing an ebook. With an ebook so much of the layout and formatting - the specific typeface and its size, the arrangement of the text, etc. - is left configurable to the reader’s personal tastes. However with the printed edition I had to come up with answers to all of these matters myself. I had my front cover sorted well in advance but everything else waited until the ebook version was done.

I prepared for the task by taking a day to visit the enormous Foyle’s bookshop on London’s Charing Cross Road. I spent hours browsing through literally hundreds of hardback novels, getting ideas about how to do the layout for my own book.

Once I had done this I generated the first draft of the printed book, sent it off to the printers and waited for the proof to come back. When I got it, I realised that things that might have looked good in the PDF on my monitor screen don't necessarily work when put down on physical paper! I was forced to go back and redo much of the design!

In the end I must have gone through the better part of a dozen proofs before I was happy with the printed book. It was a lot of effort, but I didn’t want to cut any corners. After all, readers are paying their hard-earned money to buy the book so I wanted their reading experience to be as perfect as I could make it.

7. Tell us something personal about you that your readers may be surprised to know.

People who meet me usually think that, based on the sound of my accent, I grew up in the south east of England. In fact I grew up in rural Aberdeenshire, Scotland and then went to university in Edinburgh. I only came down to the south east of England when I was twenty-two, having accepted a job with a telecoms research and development company who was based there. Since then I've lived in many parts of the world - Canada, the US, China and Turkey  - and have visited most of the rest but the UK is, and will forever be for me, truly home.

8. What do you do when you are not writing or reading?

My two young sons occupy most of my spare time! They are both keen footballers and so I spend a lot of time standing beside football pitches, watching them train or play. It's very pleasant in the spring and summer months, but rather less so in the depths of winter!

9. What's next?

Good question! I’m mulling over a second novel, most likely also to set in the techno-thriller genre. However I’m contemplating writing a few short stories first as I have a number of plot ideas floating around my head right now that don’t seem quite right for long-form fiction.

Whatever I do, I will publish it for free on my website:

10. Lastly, any special thoughts for the readers?

As it’s a techno-thriller, CHRONOS is intended to be light entertainment. My hope is that it provides a few hours of fun distraction for readers. However I would also hope that readers, after they finish the book, will look at the technological devices and services they use every day and think a bit more about the motivations of the people and organisations that created them. Can we be really sure that they have our best interests at heart?

Find William Hern on


by William Hern

Published: January 20th 2016 (print edition)
Publisher: Independent
Genre: Fiction, Techno-Thriller

“… most of the people in this world accept the fruits of technology in about the same way as a kitten accepts milk”

Set in the near future, CHRONOS is the story of a desperate search that uncovers a dark secret at the heart of the Internet - a secret that some will stop at nothing to protect.

Buy the book

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