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Author Archive: "Eleanor Catton"

Powell’s Q&A: Eleanor Catton

Describe your latest book/project/work.
My second novel, The Luminaries, is set in the New Zealand gold rushes of the 1860s, though it's not really a historical novel in the conventional sense. So far I've been describing it as "an astrological murder mystery."

I used the Mac download Stellarium and also the interactive sky chart at to generate star charts for the years 1865-1866, as seen from the position of the New Zealand goldfields. I then tracked the motion of the planets over that year, and came up with a kind of horoscope for the novel. I wanted the charts to dictate the form and content of the book: However the planets were aligned, on any given day, would dictate what was happening on the fields below.

Making the plot fit the sky was difficult. I began by researching crimes, cons, and tricks, and reading as much classic crime as I could get my hands on. I researched the history of the zodiac, and the temperaments associated with each of the twelve Sun Signs; I studied up on the planets, and their astrological significance; I read novels published in the ...

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