Heather Frost 's Crown & Serpent Book Tour
All she wanted . . .
Seventeen-year-old Iris Winn loves her quiet life with her father, studying the poisons that fascinate them both. But after his sudden death, Iris is now the ward of her estranged aunt and uncle. In order to claim her inheritance, she must live in the capital city of Lenzen for one year. While there, she must attend parties, balls, and participate in every other vapid thing the elite of Ryden value. Iris doesn’t care about learning their rules or joining their ranks–her only goal is to endure the next year. Then she meets Prince Henri Kaelin.
Everything they demanded . . .
Every young woman in Lenzen wants Henri–except for Iris. Unfortunately, the prince only has eyes for her. The king has decreed that Henri must choose a bride before his birthday, and Iris is determined it won’t be her. Dodging a prince’s focused attention while placating her relatives and the rest of Ryden’s high society is exhausting–and more dangerous than Iris could have ever imagined. She is about to learn that not all games are innocent, and some smiles are more lethal than poison. Luckily, Iris is a quick study, and this is a game she is determined to win.
She would take it all.
Heather's Conversation With Queen Iris
I thought I’d sit down with Queen Iris and chat with her about my decision to tell her story. It didn’t quite go as planned…
Heather: Hello, Your Highness. I was hoping we could meet in one of the castle’s sitting rooms.
Iris: I prefer my poison garden, thank you. *sips her tea*
Heather: All right… *shifts in her chair*
Iris: I make you uncomfortable.
Heather: A bit. I mean, I know you better than anyone else does. Even Henri.
Iris: My husband doesn’t know all my secrets, it’s true. But then, neither do you.
Heather: I’m . . . not sure what to say to that.
Iris: *the corner of her mouth lifts* I have that effect on people.
Heather: I’m aware. *clears throat, pulls out sheet of questions* Okay, I thought we could start by discussing why exactly your story needed to be told.
Iris: Needed is a strong word. But I suppose it’s because people have questions about me.
Heather: I definitely had questions. I mean, I knew vaguely how you and Henri met, because I’d written a rough draft of your first conversation way back when I wrote Royal Decoy. At the time, I needed to better understand you and Henri. Because, let’s face it, you are terrible parents.
Iris: That’s a matter of opinion. I personally believe that Henri and I have created excellent sons—with some notable exceptions at the moment, of course. But I’d prefer not to go into all that.
Heather: That’s perfectly fine. We can focus on your past, rather than the present. You met Henri when you were seventeen and he was nineteen, correct?
Iris: Yes. Fates, we were young. *she pins me with a look* I believe my son, Liam, has described our story as “terrifying” and has warned Grayson that hearing the details would make him “probably have nightmares forever.”
Heather: *raises a defensive hand* His words, not mine.
*Iris snorts delicately, sips more tea*
Heather: How would you describe your story?
Iris: Many words come to mind, but I believe that my meeting Henri was, above all, fortuitous. Even if it didn’t always feel that way at the time.
Heather: Do you think Liam knows the whole story?
Iris: Absolutely not. He may be a spymaster—the Shadow of Ryden—but my middle child is awfully arrogant if he believes he knows everything about me and Henri. There are things about our courtship no one besides the two of us know.
Heather: I knew some details about your story, since I’d written that conversation years ago between the two of you. But I have to admit, I was surprised by a lot of things when I wrote Crown & Serpent. It’s a villain origin story, and yet it also has classic fairy tale elements that were fun to write. When I was first brainstorming the novella, I wasn’t sure which POV I would go with. The scene I wrote years ago was from Henri’s POV, but I thought this novella needed dual POVs. In the end, though, it was completely your story. Do you wonder why that is?
Iris: Not really. You wrote this novella because you were intrigued by Henri and I, yes, but I was the actual unknown. You understood Henri far more than you understood me. He’s much more vocal and present in the main series, so you were naturally compelled to write the novella in my head so you could understand me better.
Heather: That’s a fair insight. I think I’ve always been intrigued by you. Your history, your motivations—if you truly love anything, or if you’re just a manipulator.
Iris: Bold words. You’re lucky I appreciate a certain level of boldness.
Heather: Um… Okay. So back to my questions—was there anything you were afraid for me to find out?
Iris: No. I may keep secrets, but my regrets are few. Readers will see parts of me that I prefer to keep hidden, but there is nothing I’m ashamed of. Besides, all of this happened long ago. The events in Crown & Serpent shaped me, true, but I am secure in who I am today. Is there anything you were surprised to learn?
Heather: Quite a few things actually. Some I can’t share right now, without risking spoilers. But I loved learning about where the middle names of your sons came from. I knew that Henri chose their first names, and I knew you picked their middle names, but I didn’t know all their namesakes until I wrote this story. Kell is a particular favorite of mine, but it was interesting to learn about who you would choose to name your children after. It was surprisingly . . . affectionate of you.
Iris: I wanted the names of my sons to matter, and there were men in my life I wanted to honor. It made sense to combine those wants.
Heather: That’s very practical of you.
Iris: Practicality is a virtue.
Heather: Surely there was at least some sentimentality in choosing to give your sons those middle names.
Iris: Sentimentality? From me? Are you certain you want to imagine that?
Heather: We both know you’re capable of sentimentality. Of feeling.
Iris: *stares, saying nothing*
Heather: *fidgets, looks back at the sheet of questions* So, um, in the novella, we get to see a very different version of Ryden. In the main series, there is a starkness to everything. The people are largely poor, the noble class is subdued and wary, and there are few parties. But when you were young, there were lavish balls, festivals, and a glittering high society. Museums, concerts, and art galleries.
Iris: Is there a question in there?
Heather: I guess I’m just curious to know if you miss any of that.
Iris: Certainly not. There’s a good reason for every change Henri and I made once he became king. Coin can be better spent elsewhere, and practicality is always the wiser choice over excess. There is truly nothing about the old Ryden I miss. We are a stronger people today, with better armies than any other kingdom in Eyrinthia.
Heather: One of the top questions I get asked about you is if you are capable of love.
Iris: What a silly question. Of course I’m capable of love. But what is love? I’ve personally seen many different types. It can be all-consuming. Destructive. Devastating. It can also be calm. Peaceful. Beautiful. No one feels anything in exactly the same way, but yes, I am capable of love. I’m just careful with the emotion, because it can be dangerous.
Heather: Do you love Henri?
Iris: The novella should answer that.
Heather: Do you love your sons?
Iris: Again, the novella should shed light on this. But I can say that I’m proud of my sons, and I have done everything I can to ensure they’re strong enough to survive this world.
Heather: Do you have a favorite son?
Iris: I thought we were keeping to the past?
Heather: It’s just a question. I’d love to know your answer.
Iris: Each son has their merit, but Carter has always been my favorite.
Iris: …He is the most like me. And he reminds me of my father.
Heather: You aren’t very comfortable with vulnerability, are you?
Heather: …Would you like to expound on that?
Iris: Not particularly.
Heather: What can you tell us about your childhood?
Iris: I grew up in Rew, which is a small city in Eastern Ryden. I rarely left my family’s estate—I didn’t have need to do so, since everything I needed was there. My father instilled in me his passion for poison, and all things that grow. My mother… well, she was an artistic woman with a mania that I never understood. She died when I was six years old. That’s all I shall say about that.
Heather: You were an only child, which means you grew up very isolated.
Iris: Perhaps. But I never saw it that way. I had my father. And the servants.
Heather: When you first came to Lenzen, you lived with your aunt and uncle and two cousins.
Iris: Yes. We were estranged, so they were strangers in nearly every way.
Heather: Were you nervous to come to Lenzen?
Iris: I’m sure you will pester me until I admit it, so, yes. But I knew I could survive. And I planned to stay for the year my aunt and uncle required, and then return to Rew, never to be bothered by anyone again.
Heather: But then you met the prince.
Iris: Indeed. I caught his attention by complete accident, and he never really looked away. I’m still not entirely sure why. I certainly didn’t set out to earn his affection. In fact, his initial fascination with me was perplexing, alarming, and—at times—annoying.
Heather: That was one aspect of your story I knew going into this novella—that from your first meeting, Henri was enchanted by you, and that you wanted nothing to do with him.
Iris: That’s perhaps a bit of a harsh assessment. I simply didn’t want to catch a husband, let alone a prince. I wanted to return home as soon as my year was up.
Heather: It makes for some really fun scenes.
Iris: *lifts one slim eyebrow* If you say so.
Heather: Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers?
Iris: No. They can read the book to learn more about me. Or rather, the version of me I once was.
Heather: Do you think you’re very different now?
Iris: Age can bring wisdom, if you’re not foolish enough to ignore life’s lessons. I believe that who I am at the core has never changed, but I’ve grown wiser over the years.
Heather: There are quite a few concerned readers out there who fear that, after reading this story, they will sympathize with you and not be able to hate you anymore.
Iris: I think my story will shed light on who I am, and why I am the way I am. But as for sympathizing with me? I suppose we’ll have to see. Did you sympathize with me, Heather?
Heather: Well, a bit. I couldn’t help it. And we actually have some things in common. But I don’t think we would ever have been friends.
Iris: We would not have been.
Heather: *laughs a bit nervously* Okay, just so long as there are no hard feelings. Honestly, though, if you had made some different choices, your life could have turned out very differently.
Iris: I had reasons for every choice I made. I am the most powerful woman in Ryden today—the most powerful woman in Eyrinthia, actually.
Heather: Did you ever meet any of the other queens in Eyrinthia?
Iris: No. Relations were always too strained for diplomatic visits of that magnitude. But over the years, we exchanged some correspondence, as queens are required to do. I sent the obligatory congratulations to Queen Aren when she married King Newlan Demoi, for example. I did the same for Seraijan Farrah when she married Seraijan Saernon Cassian, and for Queen Aziri when she married King Zaire Buhari.
Heather: What were your impressions of them?
Iris: Queen Aren was polite and concise. I appreciated that about her, though I’m sure there’s little else the late Devendran queen and I would have agreed upon. Seraijan Farrah’s handwriting was unnecessarily pretty. It grated on me, as did her tone. It was too kind, so it must have been false.
Heather: And Queen Aziri?
Iris: The queen of Zennor and I exchanged more frequent letters over the years. This was because the other kingdoms often refused to trade with Ryden, and I had to do my part in keeping relations with Zennor open. That meant sending a letter to mark every royal birth. And the queen of Zennor birthed seven children. Six daughters, you know. *shudders* I can’t even imagine it.
Heather: That’s right. You told Mia once that you prayed to the fates you wouldn’t have any daughters. Why is that?
Iris: You know why. And so will anyone who reads my story.
Heather: Fair enough. *glances around* Well, if there’s nothing else—
Iris: I have a question for you.
Heather: Oh? What is it?
Iris: When does Royal Traitor come out?
Heather: In 2024. Why?
Iris: Well… *she smiles slowly* I’m excited for what’s coming. And you know why.
Heather: *pulls in a breath* Yes. I know why.
Iris: You look afraid.
Heather: I am. Some very bad things are going to happen.
Iris: You tried to warn the readers, but I don’t think they saw it. The clue you left in plain sight in Royal Rebel. I noticed what you did, but I don’t think anyone else will. They won’t understand what the warning means until it’s too late.
Heather: You may be right. But I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.
Iris: * sips her tea, her eyes shining* I can’t wait.