How Catton's life changed after Man Booker win

06:03, Mar 18 2014
Eleanor Catton getting her investiture
BUSY YEAR: Eleanor Catton was awarded the honour for services to literature.

Eleanor Catton would like very much to write another novel, but is now too busy doing all the things that come with being internationally acclaimed.

In her case, one of those other activities was having her achievements celebrated at Government House in Wellington today at an investiture ceremony hosted by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae.

Catton was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in the New Year honours.

She has been in demand since winning the 2013 Man Booker Prize for her novel, The Luminaries. It is set on the West Coast during the gold rush of the 1860s.

When she's not doing her part-time job as a creative writing lecturer at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), she could well be overseas on a book tour.

She was off to Britain next week where she would visit various festivals, Catton said after the ceremony today.


Some events on the tour would be attended by the Man Booker judges, whom she had never met.

"They know the book quite well, actually, having had to read it three times during the judging process," Catton said.

She had been to overseas festivals in Canada and Australia.

"There's some pretty exciting ones lined up. I'm off to Brazil later on this year, and to Sweden, countries I've never visited before."

MIT had been "completely generous", allowing her to juggle her other engagements with her teaching work.

This year, she would not be teaching a full class until the next term starting in late April.

Some aspects of her life had changed considerably since winning the Man Booker award.

"Getting recognised is pretty weird, I'm not used to that," Catton said.

"It's usually just so lovely. People coming up to say 'Hi', and just saying they've read the book, or they know somebody who's read the book.

"That's been really positive and wonderful."

Other parts of her life had not changed.

"I'm still in the same flat that I've been living in in Auckland. My cats don't care about the Booker prize, except for something to knock over."

She had no time to do more writing.

"I'd love to write another novel sooner rather than later, but at the moment teaching takes up easily half my time ... and the other half is organising the public side of promoting a book."

The success of The Luminaries had been financially worthwhile, "completely astonishing, actually".

Others being celebrated today included Sir Bob Parker, Christchurch mayor during the quakes, who was made a Knight Companion of  New Zealand Order of Merit for services to local body affairs and the community, and former managing director of iconic Christchurch department store Ballantynes, Richard Ballantyne who was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Dick Tayler, who won the 10,000 metres at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to athletics. Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan was also made a member of the order for services as a television presenter and to tourism.

Several people who received bravery awards were honoured, with particularly sustained applause for Christchurch woman Lois Kennedy who was in her early 80s when, armed with a hearth brush, she took on a man attacking his mother with a blunt samurai sword.

Kennedy was in a wheelchair today, but stood, with help from the governor-general, when being honoured.