Chaired by Luke Brown
There is a rich history of gold with New Zealand’s history, New Zealand was the last place to be colonised but it was the first place to achieve democracy. Eleanor wanted to capture this dramatic atmosphere within her novel, the gold rush meant that towns just popped up within New Zealand.
Hannah’s book based on a true crime committed in Iceland. It is set after the crime has been committed and sentencing has taken place. It mainly looks at her relationship with the family that is forced to hold her and the young priest who is assigned to her. It has two narratives, 1st person in which we hear Agnes thoughts and in parts is told in a 3rd person narrative. Hannah heard the story of this crime when she spent a year in Iceland as an exchange student. She was immediately fascinated with the women that committed this crime and what kind of woman she actually was? In all her research she was struck by the fact that everyone described this women as a monster, evil and had a very black and white perspective of her. This frustrated Hannah and she wanted to write a novel that would show a complex women and perhaps discover something about her humanity. This was done through the part of the novel written in the 1st person. Her voice is a direct opposite to the voice of the 3rd person narrative. Agnes voice is lyrical and metaphorical.
Eleanor explained how it has fascinated her and raged her about how a novel has to be defined as either literary fiction or genre fiction. In literary fiction the characters propel the plot, it is the opposite for genre fiction, the plot propels the characters. The Luminaries is a very plot driven novel but why should the writer have to choose between structure and plot. This puts a element of pressure on the writer to create a level of suspense for the reader. Modern day TV programmes are masters of suspense and they manage to keep character and plot alive.
Hannah explained that her plot was a happy accident, she was researching and writing the book at the exact same time. The novel ended up being suspenseful as Hannah herself was in suspense as she didn’t know what was going to happen next. When writing she was thinking more about character and the plot just came naturally through character interactions.
Eleanor wanted her book to be entertaining and she was trying to write a murder mystery. When writing she liked to paint herself into a corner and then try and get out of it. By making the plot as difficult as she could for herself it meant it would be even better for the reader and they wouldn’t be disappointed by the book they were reading.
Burial Rites is about a time and country that does not belong to Hannah. A lot of research was carefully done and all the major plot points were taken from historical sources. The rest was a giant game of dot to dot and the speculation between fact fills in the dots. It was all common sense, logic and informed speculation.
All events are invented within Eleanor’s novel so there was no real historical research done. The prison that features in the novel is real and it was built using convict labour. This chimes with our idea of fate and that we all make our own prisons. Eleanor admits that the length of the novel crept up on her. It is a book of 12 parts and each part is half of the part before it. It is designed to be like a golden spiral and show the dramatic power of two. There was no promise that this structure was going to work until the novel was finished.
With that thought a very entertaining hour was brought to a close.