Friday, November 23, 2012

In the Hands of Children by H.S. Stone: Interview, Excerpt, Review


The H5N1 virus was the deadliest disease in the history of mankind. Not only did it spread rapidly, reaching every corner of the globe, but it also resulted in an inconceivable 100% mortality rate among adults. Within a month, almost every human being became a victim of the virus.

All that remains of humanity is a handful of "immune" children. Except that they aren't truly immune. The virus lurks in their bodies, ready to strike when they reach maturity.

Kyle, Hannah, and Amy are three immune kids who find themselves thrust into a lonely world after losing the people they have known and loved. No longer able to rely on the company, wisdom, and experience of adults, they must survive in the harsh post-pandemic world with only a handful of other immune children. But the trio soon learn that dying from H5N1 isn't the only thing they have to worry about.



“It’s Friday night,” Pratima said, sitting on the sofa next to her husband. “Let’s go out for dinner or catch a movie, something to help you relax.”
            Sanjeev didn’t feel like going out, but he also knew that if they stayed at home, she would fuss about his condition all night. “All right, let’s go.”
            They decided on dinner at a Chinese restaurant in the Embarcadero Center, a brisk twenty minute walk from their condo.       
            The brief time outdoors rejuvenated Sanjeev, and for a brief moment, he felt as healthy as a horse, but as they waited for a table in the restaurant, lethargy overtook him again. The smell of Chinese cooking, usually a pleasing aroma, made him nauseous. Sanjeev touched his forehead and found it surprisingly warm.
            Fortunately, a table opened up for them quickly. Once seated, Sanjeev felt better again, although not completely. He finished only half of his vegetarian stir fry. When Pratima asked about his lack of appetite, he blamed it on eating a snack after he landed, a lie that she didn’t question.
            After dinner, they walked to the movie theater, also situated in the multi-building complex of the Embarcadero Center. Sanjeev began to cough. It was a light cough that didn’t produce any phlegm, so he ignored it. He took a few deep breaths and felt marginally better.
            Of the four movies showing, only one appealed to both of them. Sanjeev settled into his reclining seat, and minutes into the movie, he fell asleep. He continued coughing sporadically, sometimes waking himself up. Once he caught Pratima eyeing him with apprehension. He patted her hand and smiled to reassure her that nothing was wrong. Her focus returned to the screen, and he drifted off to sleep again.
            When the movie ended, Sanjeev woke up refreshed from his nap. He continued coughing, but he barely noticed it. When his wife asked, he waved away her concerns, arguing that he didn’t feel sick.
            They strolled along a different path back to their condo which took them along the waterfront. The lights of the Bay Bridge on one side and the city on the other reminded Sanjeev how much he enjoyed living in San Francisco, and how different his homeland of India was, even with all of the progress the nation had made in the last few decades. He supposed it wasn’t a fair comparison. After all, even in the United States, few cities could match the City by the Bay.
            Pratima slipped a hand into his. He hesitated, fearing that he would pass along his disease to her. No, holding hands couldn’t hurt, he told himself. He gripped her hand more tightly but kept looking at the San Francisco skyline.
            It was past eleven when they got home. Even with the hours of sleep he received on the airplane, Sanjeev was tired again. He showered and got into bed. Pratima went into the bathroom to remove her makeup and wash her face. By the time she re-entered the bedroom, her husband was asleep.
            He coughed once but didn’t wake up. She suspected that he was getting sick. Sanjeev was a relatively healthy man, but the strain of traveling and working had undoubtedly taken its toll. Who knew what bug he might have picked up in Bangalore, or, just as likely, on the flight home? Airplanes were nothing more than flying Petri dishes, a friend had described to her, and Pratima agreed.
            She slipped into bed next to him. She wasn’t too worried about catching a disease from her husband. In their four years of marriage, one of them had gotten sick on several occasions, but only once did the other also suffer the same ailment as a result. As long as she got plenty of rest and took her vitamins, Pratima was optimistic that she would avoid falling ill. With the weekend coming up, there was even a good chance that Sanjeev would get over his illness in time to go to work on Monday.
            She kissed her husband on the forehead and rolled over to face her side of the room. Pratima fell asleep believing that everything would be all right.
            There was no way for her to know that Sanjeev would be dead in two weeks. Additionally, she, along with everyone in Sanjeev’s office, and most of the people at the restaurant and movie theater would die in less than a month.

4.5 Stars
Wow! This book grabbed my attention right from the first page! The premise is terrifying, and I just gobbled up the sentences, impatient to discover what would happen next. The young trio of protagonists seemed like old friends to me by the end of the story. I hated saying goodbye to them. 
Read my Full Review on Night Owl Reviews


Welcome H.S.  Thanks for agreeing to stop in and answer a few of my questions.  Tell us about your current release.


            In the Hands of Children is about a world decimated by a virus that kills all adults and most children. Even the children who survive die as soon as they reach adulthood. The novel follows two teenagers and a younger girl from the onset of the pandemic to their new lives in a world where a handful of children must find a way to survive without any guidance from adults.

            The idea came to me when I thought about all the technology we take for granted. What would happen if the people who knew how to take care of the machines were gone? We’d have no Internet, no cell phones, and no electricity. And being the ignorant person that I am, I wouldn’t know how to grow food, fix my car or house, or take care of the hundreds of things that other people provide for me today.


When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?


            During the week, I do most of my writing early in the morning. I’m a naturally early morning person, so I usually wake up between 4:00 and 5:00 am, get in an hour or two of reading and writing, and then go to work. I also write on Saturdays at a more sane time, while Sundays are reserved for family. I don’t write many words per day (1,000 words is a very productive day), but my schedule lets me balance work, family, and my writing.


What is the hardest part of writing your books?


            Editing is by far the hardest part of writing a book. Between the first draft and publication, I will have gone through the entire manuscript more than five times and certain sections of the book more than twenty times! It’s difficult and tedious work, and I envy any author who relishes editing.


Plotter or Pantser? Why?


            This is an interesting question because I’ve done both. I was definitely a plotter when I wrote my first novel, George and the Galactic Games. I wrote an outline and even a summary for every chapter before I started my first draft. During the process, however, I found it too constraining.

            After I finished that book, I happened to read Stephen King’s On Writing, where he proposed starting with just the premise of the story and the main characters and letting the characters take you where they want to go. I thought that was an interesting approach, so I followed it when I wrote In the Hands of Children.

            Now that I’ve been a plotter and a pantser, I’m taking a middle of the road approach with my next effort. I’m outlining the plot without too many details and writing the book based solely on the rough outline. Check back in a few months to see how that goes.


Do you use a pen name? If so, how did you come up with it?


            H.S. Stone is a pen name because my real name can be difficult to spell and pronounce. I felt that as a new, unknown author, I didn’t want to place another hurdle in front of readers trying to find me. H.S. are my real initials and Stone is my wife’s maiden name. You can say that I took on her name when we got married!


What do you do to unwind and relax?


            I collect spores, molds, and fungus. No, wait, that’s what Egon Spengler did in Ghostbusters. It may sound corny, but I read and write to relax. Since writing isn’t my full time job, I find it a nice escape. I don’t mind the hours that I put in when I’m writing, and my family can attest that I’m in a better mood when I get to write than when I don’t.


What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read?


            I’ve read lots of great books in my life, and it’s hard to decide which one is the absolute best ever. I’d probably give the nod to The Hunger Games. If it’s not the best book I’ve ever read, it’s definitely in my top five and it’s the best I’ve read in the past ten years. Not only was it so well written, but it turned me on to the Young Adult Dystopian genre, which is now my favorite genre to read. It’s also the only book among my favorites that I got my wife to read.


Entice us, what future projects are you considering?


            I just started working on my next novel, which will be a YA dystopian story that takes place in a civilization of clones. So far, I’ve been writing it from the first person point of view, which is new for me, so that’s been exciting.

            I’m also considering a sequel to George and the Galactic Games and a Young Adult/New Adult thriller that will remind some readers of The Bourne Identity. I’ve got so many ideas and not enough time to write them all!


Even before he could read, H.S. Stone wanted to write a book. Fascinated by the stories that seemed to leap from his kindergarten teacher's books, he went home and wrote his own book, with illustrations and bound by staples. Of course, since he didn't know how to read or write yet, the book was full of gibberish.

Undaunted, H.S. eventually mastered the ABC's and continued to write throughout his grade school years, adolescence, and into adulthood. Despite getting a degree and working in a field not related to writing, he continued to pursue his writing passion.

Numbers Plus Four, a collection of short stories, was H.S. Stone's first publication. He followed that with his first novel, George and the Galactic Games, and two additional books, With Five You Get Fortune Cookies and his second novel, In the Hands of Children. H.S. Stone lives with his family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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1 comment:

Autumn said...

The book sounds wickedly awesome! Will be adding it to my TBR pile. Thank you for the interview and for the lovely giveaway. Merry Christmas.