Some of the Festival’s most celebrated guests reveal the books that made them want to become writers. Literary luminaries will discuss intimate and varied influences, offering insights into what shaped them as writers and informed some of today’s important literary works. The international line-up features Booker Prize-winner Tom Keneally, acclaimed writer and essayist Robert Dessaix (The Pleasures of Leisure), Ian Rankin (bestselling crime writer of the Inspector Rebus novels) and Pulitzer Prize finalist Joy Williams (Ninety-Nine Stories of God). Hosted by ABC RN’s Kate Evans.

This event will be Closed Captioned. The National Relay Service is available to assist with phone bookings. Call SWF Box Office on (02) 9256 4200 or email ticketing@swf.org.au to book access tickets.

Please note: due to unforeseen circumstances, Hisham Matar and Hannah Kent will no longer be appearing at this event. 

Thomas Keneally (Australian)

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Tom Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler's Ark, later made into the Steven Spielberg Academy Award-winning film Schindler's List. His non-fiction includes the memoir Searching For Schindler and Three Famines, an LA Times Book of the Year. His fiction includes Shame and the Captives and The Widow And Her Hero (shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award). His novels The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates were all shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while Bring Larks and Heroes and Three Cheers For The Paraclete won the Miles Franklin Award. The People's Train was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia division. He is co-author with Meg Keneally of The Soldier’s Curse and The Unmourned, the first two books in The Monsarrat Series.

Ian Rankin (International)

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Ian Rankin is the bestselling author of the Inspector Rebus and Detective Malcolm Fox novels, as well as a string of standalone thrillers. His most recent book - the twenty-first instalment of the Rebus series - is Rather Be the Devil. His books have been translated into 36 languages and are bestsellers on several continents. He is the recipient of numerous international awards for crime writing and has been awarded honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews, Hull and Edinburgh. He has received the OBE for services to literature, is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and in 2017 will become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Joy Williams (International)

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According to The New York Times, ‘Joy Williams might be the writer’s writer’s writer.’ Over the decades, wildly different stylists including Don Barthelme, Don DeLillo, Raymond Carver, William Gass, Karen Russell, Bret Easton Ellis, James Salter, Ann Beattie and Tao Lin, have all expressed unqualified admiration. She is the author of four novels and five collections of stories. Her first novel, State of Grace, was a finalist for the National Book Award and her most recent novel, The Quick and the Dead, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2001. She is also the author as Ill Nature, a book of essays that was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. Her latest work, 99 Stories of God, is a collection of micro-fiction and was published in 2016. Among her many honors are the Rea Award for the short story and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Robert Dessaix (Australian)

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Robert Dessaix is a writer of fiction, autobiography and the occasional essay. His best-known books, all translated into several European languages, include his autobiography A Mother's Disgrace, Night Letters, Corfu and a collection of essays and short stories (And So Forth). In 2012 he published the collection of originally spoken pieces As I Was Saying, and in 2014 he published the meditation What Days Are For. His latest book is The Pleasures of Leisure.

Kate Evans (Australian)

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Kate Evans is a broadcaster on ABC RN's Books and Arts and Books Plus programs. She has a PhD in history, a lot of books, and many questions.