'The danger you have to negotiate is not the dimpled coyness of the past – it is its obscenity.' So argued Hilary Mantel, taking aim at ‘grumbling’ in literary circles about historical fiction. ‘Chick-lit with wimples’ it ain’t, she says. Taking up the debate are Melissa Ashley and Liam Pieper, who have written about periods ranging from Nazi Germany to 19th century Ireland. They talk to Ashley Hay and tackle the question: can we engage with the present without revisiting the past?

Please note: Annabel Abbs and Hannah Kent will no longer be appearing at this event.

Liam Pieper (Australian)

Liam Pieper's 2014 memoir, The Feel-Good Hit of the Year was shortlisted for the National Biography Award and the Ned Kelly Best True Crime award. This was followed by Mistakes Were Made, a collection of essays about why you should never write a memoir. In 2015 he was the inaugural creative resident of the UNESCO City of Literature of Prague, where he completed his first novel The Toymaker which has been widely translated and won the Fellowship of Australian Writers Christina Stead Fiction Award. He was the 2018 National Library of Australia Creative Arts Fellow for Australian Writing.

Ashley Hay (Australian)

Ashley Hay is a Brisbane-based novelist and essayist whose awards include the Foundation of Australian Literary Studies’ Colin Roderick Award and the Peoples’ Choice from the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, for The Railwayman’s Wife, and the Bragg/UNSW Press Prize for Science Writing. Her latest novel is A Hundred Small Lessons. She is the editor of Griffith Review.