Interview with Georgia Summers (CITY OF STARDUST)
Georgia Summers is a half-British, half-Trinidadian writer, who spent most of her life living across the world, including Russia, Colombia and the US. When she’s not doing bookish things, she’s planning her next great adventure. She currently lives in London, but she dreams of one day living in a haunted château with a ghost that cleans.
Welcome to the Hive, Georgia, and congratulations on the upcoming release of your debut novel The City of Stardust.
What can readers expect?
Power-hungry scholars, a centuries-old tragedy, enigmatic gods and vengeful monsters. But also a tentative coffee shop romance, underground cities, and magical keys to other worlds. Plus parties! So much of The City of Stardust is really just things I love.
Tell us more about your protagonist, Violet Everly – she has a lot to deal with when we first meet her!
Violet has spent most of her life hidden away in the Everly house, and her mother has disappeared from her life, so she’s been raised by her uncles. She starts out a little naïve about the world, but deeply curious and with this irrepressible desire for adventure. This, of course, isn’t helped by the fact that her uncles are hiding secrets from her, with some pretty devastating consequences. I wanted to write a character with this real zest and delight for life, while trying to outrun a literal deadline, and how it might feel to be torn between these two urgencies.
We also have Aleksander, again something of a tortured soul bless him, and his relationship with Violet is complicated to say the least. Could you tell our readers a little more about him?
Tortured sounds about right! (Poor guy.) Aleksander is someone who I consider morally conflicted more than morally grey: he spends a lot of his time trying to figure out what – and who – is right, all while trying to retain his mentor’s approval. At the beginning, he’s absolutely convinced of the scholars’ quest to preserve and uncover their city’s history. Then he meets Violet, and this long-held belief starts to unravel.
There’s a great deal of travelling throughout The City of Stardust, and you bring the various locations to life beautifully. Tell us more about Fidelis, did you have any particular inspiration behind this magical city?
Fidelis was inspired mostly by my love of mountains and snow. It’s hard to explain why it feels so magical to me, but friends and family will be able to testify to this. (It doesn’t snow very often in London, but when it does, I’m usually throwing on clothes and out the door to enjoy it while it lasts.) But not everything in Fidelis is straightforwardly delightful, and its glamour hides some difficult secrets.
Underneath the spellbinding worldbuilding, the bones of this story is a classic portal fantasy. What made you want to write this particular kind of story?
I’ve always loved portal stories. There’s something just incredibly magical about the idea that you could turn the corner or open the right door (or climb into the right wardrobe…) and stumble across this whole new adventure. And that feeling’s never really gone away for me.
However, this isn’t a light and fun story about skipping between worlds; there’s a family curse, and quite a lot of dark themes, and even some rather monstrous beings… How did you find balancing the darker themes against the lighter parts?
The truth is that for a significant part of the writing journey, I thought I was writing a fairly light-hearted, whimsical book. (Until early readers told me otherwise!)
Genuine lol at this Georgia!
I wanted the world of the scholars to feel genuinely seductive, and that if you had the choice, you would step through the door, no questions asked. Then I wondered what it might look like if you started asking difficult questions, and if those answers would make you reconsider your choice – where you would draw the line and turn away. All the characters grapple with this question to certain degrees, I think.
The City of Stardust put me in mind of The Night Circus and also His Dark Materials, were these conscious influences of yours or were there others?
I’ve always wanted to write a book that makes other people feel how The Night Circus made me feel: like I was sinking through the page into this beautifully realised world. In the same way, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was very formative for me.
Then there are lots of childhood influences in the book. So His Dark Materials, definitely, but also Sabriel by Garth Nix (with its phenomenal worldbuilding), a dash of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – not to mention a plethora of Victorian children’s novels, who were inevitably parentless and desperate for adventure.
If you had a Key and could travel to any world, where would you go and why?
Oh, this is such a tough question! I’d love to wander through the ruins of Canaan House in Gideon the Ninth, or the vast and perilous Old Kingdom in Sabriel, or the literature-influenced world of The Eyre Affair… Can I cheat? Can I have them all?
Only if you take me with you into The Eyre Affair!
This one is just for fun and is one of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
A centaur. I feel like it would need to be something that could steer itself, since I can’t drive or ride a horse/horse-like creature. And I think a centaur would make for solid company.
What’s next for you, Georgia? Can we expect to return to Violet and Aleksander? Is there a sequel planned?
My next book is a fantasy standalone, about a book thief who inherits a magical bookshop, and gets caught up in a murder mystery, a shady society and ink magic. Not to mention the rival bookseller who’s determined to claim the bookshop for himself.
As a bookseller, I’m going to need to able to read that ASAP please.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I would love readers to take away the importance of being kinder to themselves and to one another. Also that love in all its forms can be a messy, imperfect thing, and that’s okay, too.
The City of Stardust is out now! You can pick up your copy from Bookshop.org