Following Kaden’s example, I take one of the cookies and munch on it as I look through the remaining questions. “Now that we’ve covered various questions for most of you, it’s probably time to circle back to you, Jace.”
He pauses just as he’s about to reach for his coffee mug, and I give him an apologetic look. “You were just starting to get comfortable, weren’t you?”
He leaves the coffee mug and settles back in his chair. “A little.”
“Well, these questions still aren’t as bad as some you’ve had in the past. Reese wants to know if you can sing. She’s had it on her mind for a long time, and may or may not have fangirled over what you would sound.”
There are hints of barely contained laughter around the room, and Jace shoots a look at Kaden before sighing and turning back to me. “Haven’t I been asked this before?”
“Hmm, I think you might have, back when the Goodreads Girls were posting Ilyon versions of Disney songs.”
Jace grimaces at that memory. “Well, my answer is still the same. I don’t sing.”
Now there’s some actual laughter from both Kaden and Holden.
Kyrin leans into Jace. “I think he probably could if he tried.”
Jace shakes his head. “No.”
She gives him a mushy look. “I kind of have to agree with Reese. You would probably sound amazing.”
Now Jace blushes but continues shaking his head adamantly.
“I can sing,” Talas says with a grin.
Kaden jabs him with his elbow. “We all know you can sing.”
Talas shrugs. “Reese probably didn’t.”
“Okay, moving on.” I search for Jace’s next question. “Okay, Jace, Aidan has a question. Your conviction to not kill Baron Reynold somewhat surprised him. He would have considered that situation the same as when you defended Michael from Ruis. Both Ruis and Reynold intended deadly harm to those dear to you, and both delighted in that harm. What caused you to turn down Avery’s offer and allow Reynold to live, while you fought Ruis?”
“Well, when I killed Ruis, it was out of self-defense since he would have drowned me otherwise. When I fought Baron Reynold, I disarmed him in the course of the fight. It’s the same as when I saved Rayad from Dagren. They all meant to cause deadly harm, but the difference in when I’ve killed and haven’t killed is whether they were armed or not. They might have deserved death, but it is not my place to decide that and exact justice. If I had killed Reynold while he was unarmed just to fulfill Avery’s request, I would consider that murder. There’s a big difference between killing an unarmed opponent and self-defense. I’m not going to kill an unarmed man.”
I nod. “You’re definitely not one to kill someone unless it’s absolutely necessary in the heat of battle.” I pull out one of the question cards. “Now would probably be a good time to answer one of the questions for me. Kay wants to know which character has changed the most since you first started writing them. While many of the characters have changed significantly over the course of the series, I have to go with Jace. Who he was when Rayad first finds him at the beginning of Resistance to who he is in Daican’s Heir is a drastic change. And I have had so much fun sharing his story and watching him grow over the years. I don’t think I’ll ever write another character who means quite as much to me as he does.”
Jace, of course, looks a little embarrassed by this, but Kyrin gives him a proud smile. Since they’re being all cute and sappy, it’s the perfect time to ask one of the questions meant for both of them.
“Naomi wants to know what is one thing you’ve learned about each other since getting married?”
Kyrin waits and gives Jace a prompting look, but he shakes his head. “You can go first.”
She thinks on it a moment. “I have noticed that Jace double-checks the lock on our door every single night.”
Jace frowns. “I do?”
“Mmhmm. You always go to the door twice and test it.”
Jace appears a bit mystified by this, and Holden adds, “He did that in our cabin too.”
Jace looks between the two of them, dumbfounded.
Kyrin puts her hand on his arm. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It makes me feel safe.”
This seems to settle him, but now it’s time for him to answer the question. “So what have you learned, Jace?”
He clears his throat, looking uncomfortable once again. He hesitates, peaking at Kyrin. “Well, Kyrin is super meticulous about folding and stacking our clothes. I’m always worried I’m going to mess it up.”
Kyrin’s brows lift as if she’s coming to a realization. “I guess I am pretty meticulous about that.” She turns to face Jace more fully. “I’m sorry. You don’t have to be worried. I guess it’s just my time at Tarvin Hall coming through. The headmistress was extremely finicky about us having tidy shelves. It must be ingrained in me. I apologize if I ever get irritated about it.”
He smiles now and shakes his head. “It’s all right.”
I sigh quietly to myself. They’re so cute. Now I just need to find a relationship like theirs. “So, do you two ever still go hunting together by yourselves?”
Kyrin nods. “We haven’t in a while, but we did go after we were married and I was fully recovered from the fever. It wasn’t much fun in the snow, but it got better once spring arrived and it got warmer.”
“Kyrin, Rebecca wants to know if Jace ever plays with your hair. And she apologizes if the question embarrasses you.”
Kyrin laughs quietly, and it’s Jace who looks embarrassed.
“Yes, he does.”
I laugh too. “There’s actually a scene in Daican’s Heir where he’s thinking about running his hand through your hair, so that was a good question.”
Jace is blushing now.
I decide not to torture him anymore. “Here’s another question for you, Kyrin. Reese asked, what is your favorite place in the world?”
“Of course, my childhood home in Mernin will always be a special place to me. But, when it comes right down to it, I have to say Landale. It’s where I met and fell in love with Jace. And I’ve made so many of my closest friends there. It’s the first place my family truly came together. It’s just special.”
“It is. I’d love to live in Landale with you all.” I flip to the next card. “I have one more question specifically for you, this time from Jasmin and Grace. Is there anyone else in your family tree who has perfect memory?”
“That’s a good question. I don’t know of anyone, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in the family did at some point. Or maybe I’m just weird.”
I gin. “That’s okay. Normal is overrated.”
Kaden and Talas laugh. They stop when they realize I’m staring at Kaden.
He sighs. “Uh oh, what’s the question?”
“Oh, it’s still coming. I just have another question from Jasmin and Grace that’s for you. What is your favorite piece of Ilyon history? How much history did they teach you at Tarvin Hall?”
Kaden gives me something of a guilty look. “Well, it’s probably no surprise to anyone that I wasn’t the best student, so I didn’t learn a whole lot of history. And I wouldn’t call what they did teach at Tarvin Hall accurate history anyway since it revolved around Aertus and Vilai. So I can’t say I have a favorite piece of history, but I do enjoy learning more about the beginning of Ilyon, thanks to Timothy.”
“Yeah, that sounds like you.” I read through the next couple of questions. “Looks like a bunch for me.” A few people seem relieved. “E. Dison wants to know if the romantic ships I’ve started will ever get together since there are so many at this point. Well, don’t worry. I’m a hopeless romantic. I think you’ll be pleased with the outcomes.”
“I can confirm that.” Kyrin sends a bright smile Liam’s way, and he blushes deeply.
I can’t help laughing just a bit. “Kat wants to know if my writing style has changed or grown since it’s been so long since the last Ilyon book was released. I think my style changes and grows a bit with every book. It’s not always easy for me to see it though. I tend to be pretty critical of my own work. And even though it’s been a long time since the last book, most of that time I was incapable of writing for one reason or another, so it’s not like I spent all of that time improving. But I hope it has grown.”
I flip to the next card. “Here are a couple from Stargazer. She wants to know, with Ilyon Chronicles coming to its conclusion, do I have any plans for other books or series in the future? Well, I don’t have a definite plan on what’s coming next, but I do have more book ideas than I’ll ever be able to write, which pains me. I have so many stories I want to share. Right now, I’m actively writing a contemporary romance. After I finished writing Daican’s Heir, I went through a really bad writing slump for several months. I was finally free to write anything I wanted, but my brain just threw creativity out the window, and no matter how hard I tried to write, nothing caught my interest. Finally, late last fall, my brain decided it was time to write again and seized this story idea in a death grip. It wasn’t what I intended to write next, but that’s what usually happens to me. I don’t choose what I write. Stories just tend to grab me and drag me along for the ride. So that’s what happening currently, though I’m ultimately a spec fic writer, so I’m anxious to work on a new fantasy project. I’m not sure what it will be, but I would like to write about fantasy pirates at some point. I also have a Viking-inspired fantasy romance started. And I’ve always wanted to write something post-apocalyptic. The possibilities are endless at this point.
“Her next question is, what’s something I’ve learned during the process of working on Daican’s Heir? It’s been a hard lesson to learn, but I think with this book, I really had to learn to trust God’s timing. This book took nearly seven years to write. That feels like a ridiculously long time, and I was so frustrated by it. It was awful. But now that it is done and I can look at it from the other side, I don’t think the book would be what it is if I had written it as quickly as the others. I still wish it wouldn’t have taken so long, but I’m not the same person I was when I started writing it. I think I probably had to be who I am now in order to write the story as it was meant to be written.”
I pause and send Kaden a look. “See, you aren’t the only one who has questions that dig deep. Now, Rebecca wants to know if I’ve ever had a dream where I was actually in Ilyon. The answer to that is no, sadly. It would be really cool though, especially if I could ride a dragon.
“Here’s a question from Isabelle. She wants to know if I’ve watched The Chosen and what I thought of the different portrayals in relation to my characters. So, I actually haven’t watched The Chosen yet. Call me weird, but for some strange reason, I’m not a particularly big fan of Biblical shows and movies. I don’t even know why. I intend to watch it at some point, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
I scan through the questions. “I have one final question from Brittany, who wants to know if I have a TikTok. I do not, though I wish I did. The problem is I’m already bad at taking photos for my Instagram. I think I’d be even worse at making videos. Maybe someday I’ll give it a try.”
Kaden gives me an odd look. “What’s a TikTok?”
“Another aspect of modern technology it’s probably a good thing you don’t have.”
Kaden snorts. “I’m starting to think you don’t trust me.”
“I just feel like both you and Talas would probably waste way too much time if you had TikTok sending each other stupid videos.”
Before either of them can respond, there’s a knock at the door.