TENS of thousands of literature fans will descend on the city in March for the 17th Oxford Literary Festival.

And a host of award-winning authors including double Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel have been announced as part of the festival’s stellar line-up.

Last year’s festival saw more than 30,000 tickets sold and organisers are hoping this year will be even more successful.

Festival director Sally Dunsmore said: “We have more events in the magnificent surroundings of the Sheldonian Theatre this year, and we are delighted that many of our greatest living authors will be appearing.

“There is a particular international flavour to this year’s festival with lots of writers travelling over from the United States, Inkheart writer Cornelia Funke from Germany, a panel of Russian writers, new Indian writers and leading Spanish novelist Javier Marias.”

Also among those appearing at the festival, which runs from Saturday, March 16, to Sunday, March 24, will be 2011 Booker winner Julian Barnes and Nobel prize-winner Seamus Heaney.

Authors Sue Townsend, Ruth Rendell, Alexander McCall Smith and Oxford author Philip Pullman are also in the line-up.

Mrs Mantel, who is one of only three authors to win the Booker Prize twice, will discuss Bring Up the Bodies, the second book in her Thomas Cromwell series. She is also to receive the Bodley Medal from Bodley’s Librarian Dr Sarah Thomas in recognition of her achievements.

Mr Pullman, Oxford author of the acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy, said: “It is always very interesting to see who is going to be taking part in the festival every year and it has become a great success.

“I will be doing a talk on my reworking of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and I’m looking forward to it.”

So far 150 events have been confirmed, including newspaper columnists Peter Hitchens and Simon Jenkins debating drugs policy in the Sheldonian Theatre.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson will be discussing his new book Live from Downing Street: The Inside Story of Politics, Power and the Media and historian William Dalrymple will be talking about his new work Return of a King – The Battle for Afghanistan.

Other big names include former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown, Chocolat author Joanne Harris and historian Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch.

The festival’s residential creative writing course will be taking place again at Corpus Christi College for aspiring fiction writers.

Tickets can be booked via the website or through the festival box office on 0870 343 1001.

HILARY MANTEL – Originally from Derbyshire, Hilary Mantel is the first woman to receive the Booker Prize twice.
She received the prizes for the first two installments of her historical trilogy on Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall and the sequel Bring Up the Bodies.
The 60-year-old studied law at the London School of Economics then worked as a sales assistant in a department store.
Her first novel, Every Day is Mother’s Day, was published in 1985.

PHILIP PULLMAN has written a series of best-selling children’s books over the years but chief among those is the acclaimed His Dark Materials trilogy.
A graduate of Exeter College, Oxford, where he got a third, Mr Pullman taught at the former Bishop Kirk Middle School in Summertown, Oxford, and Westminster College, North Hinksey, before turning full-time to writing in 1996. He now lives in Cumnor.
His first published work, The Haunted Storm, joint-won the New English Library’s Young Writer's Award in 1972.

NICK ROBINSON replaced Andrew Marr as political editor of the BBC in 2005.
He has been a journalist since the 1980s, beginning his career on Newsround and Crimewatch.
Originally from Cheshire, the 49-year-old studied at University College, Oxford, where he read Politics, Philosophy and Economics and was president of the Oxford University Conservative Association.
His first book, an inside account of life in Downing Street, was published this year.

SUE TOWNSEND is best known as the author of the Adrian Mole books and has won numerous awards.
The 66-year-old still lives in Leicester where she was born and brought up and has been given the Freedom of the City, an honour she shares with singer Engelbert Humperdinck.
After leaving school at 15 she worked in a factory and a shop before setting pen to paper. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 was published in 1982.