For fans of husband-wife writing duo Ilona Andrews (Ilona Gordon and Andrew Gordon), the past week brought some longed for news — the New York Times best-selling author has signed a three-book deal with Avon to continue their beloved Hidden Legacy series.
If that’s not enough to whet fan’s appetites, they also announced the new trilogy will kick off with a novella this fall (published in e-book by Avon Impulse) that will serve to bridge the gap between the final book in the previous trilogy, Wildfire, and the first book in the new series, slated for a Fall 2019 release.
Within a day of the news breaking Wednesday, pre-order sales for the still-untitled e-novella hit the top 100 in the Kindle store. So, EW called up Ilona and Andrew to see if we could get them to reveal any secrets from the new trilogy fans have been clamoring for since the first series ended last summer.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What, if anything can you tell us about this new trilogy?
ILONA GORDON: When we talked about the continuation of the trilogy with our publisher, we asked [our editor] Erika Tsang, “How do you envision the series continuing forward? Should we continue on Nevada and Rogan? Should we take one of the other characters?” And she said, “It would be so lovely to have a book about Catalina.” Catalina is Nevada’s second sister and she is an interesting character. She is the typical teenage shy girl where she’s very smart, she’s very introspective, but she just doesn’t deal with the spotlight. So, it’s going to be about Catalina. It is going to be set a little bit further from the events of the first three books, so she’ll be older. She’ll be in her early 20s and we are going to further explore her character a little bit. There was an Italian gentleman she met during her trials in the previous books, and he will feature prominently in the trilogy. The trilogy itself will revolve around the crime syndicate. We’re going to kind of see how she deals with different things. It’s taking somebody who’s living a really mundane, ordinary life and suddenly thrusting them into the glittering world of too much money, too much power, too much public visibility and seeing how they will deal with it.
How about the upcoming e-novella — what will that be about?
ILONA: It is set shortly after the events of the last book, Wildfire, and it will concentrate on Nevada and Rogan’s wedding. Throughout the whole trilogy, the reader thinks Connor Rogan has no relatives besides his mother. He does. He has a huge family on his mother’s side, but they’re all in Spain. When he presents Nevada to his mother, which will we see in this novella, he tells her he just wants a small wedding and she’s like, “Absolutely not. Absolutely not. You can’t do that. You’re my only son. I will see you walk down the aisle. I will have this glamorous wedding. We’re doing this.” In the novella, basically, all of the Rogan relatives invade in force and they have to have this wedding. They have to corral Nevada, because Nevada’s being a little bit of a Bridezilla. During the beginning of the wedding, it becomes clear that a family heirloom is stolen. Rogan’s mother does not want Nevada’s first introduction to the family to be that of interrogating everybody and trying to figure out who stole the diadem. Nevada’s mother has a bright idea. Catalina is an experienced investigator. She’s going to retrieve the heirloom so Nevada can wear it during the wedding ceremony. The novella centers around Catalina’s big first case. She has to navigate very complicated family politics. She has not to step on anybody’s toes, but still find the missing item. And at the same time, there’s things going on on her side of the family where they’re trying to build a new house. Hopefully, it will be more of a keep it close mystery feel than the world is ending and we must rescue it.
There were some loose ends at the conclusion of the last trilogy – will they be tied up in the new one?
ILONA: It depends on what loose ends you’re referring to. Basically there’s a couple of loose ends at the end of the trilogy. There’s the identity of Caesar, which I feel we quite heavily hinted at, but some people are still not sure who he is. That will be explored in the next trilogy. There’s also a couple of people who didn’t quite get their comeuppance, again that will be delayed for the next trilogy because we’re planning to go more into the convoluted nature of Baylor family ancestry – who was their grandfather? How exactly their grandmother went about making sure they were born and so on? As far as the novella, it will concentrate on bringing Catalina to the point where we can begin the next trilogy. It brings Catalina to the point where [when] you see her in the new trilogy, you understand why she is the way she is.
Were you always hoping to do another trilogy in this world or did it come up unexpectedly?
ANDREW GORDON: Yes, because we kind of left it open-ended. When we originally did the end of the third book, we tried to tie everything up with a nice bow, but we couldn’t and then our editor Erika kind of didn’t let us. At that point, we were like “Ooo, maybe we’ll get to write more of the books.” So we always hoped that we would get to continue the series.
How much can we expect to see of Rogan and Nevada? Will most of the characters be ones fans are already familiar with?
ILONA: We’re working with the same basic set of characters.
ANDREW: It’s still the Baylor family.
ILONA: Cornelius [Harrison] will be there. [Augustine], who apparently is a fan favorite, which we didn’t expect, but people were really offended he wasn’t in the third book…We’re working with the same basic set of characters, it’s just instead of Nevada being the main character, she’ll be a side character, like Catalina was in the previous trilogy. We’re talking about a little bit in the future, so maybe three or four years. By that point, it’s interesting to see what has Baylor Investigations become. There’s probably an arm now that kind of works more closely with Rogan and his enterprises. And there’s an arm that works with Montgomery. Because they’re expanding, it will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out.
ANDREW: We were actually talking about it at dinner last night. We went out to eat and we were kind of discussing what to do with the Italian count.
ILONA: We’re still kind of in the planning stages, so it’s terribly exciting because we don’t know quite what’s going to happen.
Who are you most excited for fans to meet – or get to know better?
ILONA: Catalina and her sister Arabella will play a much bigger role. Leon will be older. In the previous trilogy, Leon makes a plan of becoming the dark force, the feared assassin of House Baylor, and he hasn’t walked away from that plan. He’s still holding on to it, so it will be so much fun to just explore that and have him sort of develop. Because he’s older now.
ANDREW: I’m excited to reveal their paternal grandfather.
ILONA: I now actually am holding his mouth closed because Gordon would reveal every secret if you ask him. When fans ask him for spoilers, he just tells them. It’s terrible.
What attracted you to magic as a storytelling tool?
ILONA: We always gravitated to stories that mixed technology and magic. When we were younger we always watched cartoons like He-Man or Flash Gordon. It was such an interesting mix of technology and magic. Our world is kind of set now in a sense where if you possess the key to technology, you’re pretty much guaranteed success. Wealth, power, all those things. And introducing magic into it just kind of turns everything on its head. It’s exciting.
ANDREW: Anybody can have magic. You think of technology belonging to people in more developed countries or people with access to wealth, whereas magic, it evens the playing field.
ILONA: It’s almost like a frontier feeling that you can sometimes find in Westerns where a poor cowboy discovers gold on his range and becomes fabulously wealthy. Or that kind of Indiana Jones exploration, where an archaeologist goes through the jungle and suddenly he makes this incredible find that guarantees for life that he’ll be respected and have so much research. That’s kind of what magic is – it’s that wild factor that enters a narrative and it has the potential to change everything.
If you could have just one of the magic skills of any one of your character, what would that be and why?
ILONA: Gordon says he would be a polymorph. He can change shape and assume any human shape that is there. For me, I don’t know. It’s so hard to pick because so many powers are a double-edged sword, like I don’t want to know the truth. That would be really, really difficult. That’s the problem because most of the time our magic has a downside. Catalina can make you love her, but she’s never sure the affection you feel for her is genuine. So it’s hard. I would take Cornelius Harrison’s animal mage powers. That would be fun.
You write as a married couple – is that a challenge, does it ever lead to any major disagreements or on the reverse, huge moments of triumph together that bolster your relationship?
ANDREW: More the latter because if we succeed, we succeed together. It’s both of our successes, whether it’s turning in a copy edit like today or a release or a tour. It’s sort of a shared reinforcement of us as a team. We rarely fight about stuff. We argued about some stuff yesterday.
ILONA: We argued about some stuff yesterday in a copy edit. He wanted to change the age of a child to 18 months versus 13 months. I thought if we do it, it will be such a monumental change that we have to completely re-write chunks of the narrative. We kind of had a spat about that, but it lasted probably a minute and a half. And then when we went out to dinner. I know people like to imagine us throwing plates at each other, screaming, and slamming doors. It never happens. The object here is to put out the best book possible. We have been writing together for a while, so when we have arguments it’s more about how to do something rather than whether to do it or not. And if it’s on the page, it’s a compromise so we almost never have dramatic disagreements. We do occasionally argue about who dies because somebody’s got to die. Because everything has a price…It makes us stronger as a couple. We work together. We write very close to each other. Our desks are basically within a couple of feet of each other, so we talk through the dialogue as we write. There’s no ego in it — that’s kind of the key. Personal success is not as important as team success. If we succeed together, then both of us benefit.
ANDREW: It was the same in the army.
ILONA: Because Gordon was in the Army, it trained us to view our relationship as we are together. We are a team. Because the problem is when you’re in the Army, you are sometimes a single parent and your spouse has to be able to trust you that they can go on deployment and things will not fall apart and everything will be okay. I guess it kind of shaped our marriage.
Being a married couple that writes particularly steamy romance, I’m sure you probably get asked a lot of wild questions. What is the weirdest or most uncomfortable question you’ve ever been asked?
ILONA: We were having an event in Austin, Texas and there was like 200 people in the audience or whatever and suddenly this older lady stands up and she says, “When you write sex scenes, do you practice? Do you actually get into positions and is that exciting for you?” And I was like, Oh my god, you did not just ask this. Not only is it totally inappropriate, but there were children in the audience. Her daughter was there, and she was mortified. She turned the color of a raspberry. That was highly uncomfortable for everybody involved. We would like to just point out that our characters and us, we’re separate entities. We have not killed anybody that we know of, and our characters kill bad guys quite frequently. It would be a mistake to identify us with our characters.
Romance as a genre has been on the forefront of many issues, but particularly those of consent and sexuality. The issue of consent is dominating the news cycle right now, but paranormal or urban fantasy books tend to live a little more on the edge than contemporary or historical – would you agree? And do you feel like it’s something you’re going to have to adjust at all?
ILONA: No. Our views have not changed. We have two daughters. The issues of consent were discussed in our house very, very early on. The first actual make-out scene we had was in book three of [the] Kate Daniels [series]. In that first scene, the heroine tells him “stop” and he stops. That is a crucial thing. In real life or in a book, the issue cannot be that you didn’t assume consent. The issue is, is consent given? There’s a lot of ways you can go about indicating consent, but the easiest one is the heroine has to say yes. The heroine has to say, I’m spending the night, I choose to do this. That is absolutely crucial. There are a lot of very young romance readers. And we want to be able to communicate to those young romance readers who have not had experience with relationships that consent is a right. It’s a right. It’s not something that’s offered…We have to take a stand and make sure we communicate to our audience that it’s not okay to give up your rights just because another person wants to have sex.