Accruing Authority

“I take a lot of notes when I read, particularly in this initial phase of research. I highlight everything I find interesting, and then type out everything I’ve highlighted, and then print out everything I’ve typed, and reread these printed notes as often as possible. In addition to non-fiction, I began reading as much 19th‑century fiction and crime fiction as I could, highlighting idioms, period details and ingenuities of plot. Most of the notes I took never made it into The Luminaries—at least not directly—but I could never have begun writing the novel without them. In many ways I see this initial phase as a process of accruing authority, of finding a perspective on the raw material of the future novel’s world. I’ve always loved that ‘author’ derives from the Latin augere, to increase. This phase of reading and researching lasted for nearly two years, but it wasn’t until the very end of it that the idea for the novel was really born.”

Eleanor Catton on how she wrote The Luminaries


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