Eleanor Catton correctly picked John Campbell's star sign backstage before stepping out in front of a record-breaking crowd last night at the Auckland Writers Festival.

"He's an Aquarius, quite obviously, I think," she repeated on stage, before revealing that discussion of her belief in astrology "is what my publishers in the UK have called 'dropping the A bomb'."

But she called newspaper horoscopes "rather inane and silly ways into the discipline, really", saying she considers astrology, which informs the structure of her Man Booker prize-winning novel The Luminaries, to be a relational system, like a moving wheel.

Perhaps, she said, astronomy can be explained as "all in our minds", or with Jung's idea that it is our psychology projected into the heavens, but it doesn't matter. "Each explanation is fascinating to me."


Discussion was witty and deep during her conversation with Campbell, ranging from obscure clues Catton "planted" in The Luminaries, to love: "I think that love is the most vulnerable-making thing that there is. When you say 'I love you', you're rendering yourself completely powerless."

The mark of a true feeling is that it makes people a little uncomfortable: "I think there's something terrifying about a wedding."

Catton revealed the day after winning the Man Booker, she did 12 hours of interviews with "a sizeable hangover". The publicist apparently set up a vomit break, which helped.

By the end of the hour, Catton had received seven rounds of applause — one for each astrological planet — including a standing ovation at the end.