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Author Archive: "Eleanor Catton"

Eleanor Catton: What I’m Giving

At Powell's, we feel the holidays are the perfect time to share our love of books with those close to us. For this special blog series, we reached out to authors featured in our Holiday Gift Guide to learn about their own experiences with book giving during this bountiful time of year.

Today's featured giver is Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries.

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What books are you giving to friends and family this holiday season and why?
I'm giving poetry to my partner, who is a poet himself and so very difficult to buy for, as his tastes are much more diverse and informed than mine. I know that the presses he most admires are New Directions, The Cultural Society, Flood Editions, Talisman House, and the recently formed Verge Books — I'll do some research first and find what's new and forthcoming on their lists.

Is there a book you find yourself gifting year after year?
I've given The Gift by Lewis Hyde to a great many people. For obvious reasons, it's a book that's best given away.

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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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