Noelle McCarthy named as 2023 International Institute of Modern Letters Writer in Residence

Bestselling memoirist and well-known radio broadcaster Noelle McCarthy has been appointed as the Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) and Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence for 2023.

Noelle McCarthy by Rebecca Zephyr Thomas
Noelle McCarthy by Rebecca Zephyr Thomas

Ms McCarthy’s first book, the memoir Grand, was published this year and has been a breakout success with readers and critics alike. The account of the author’s relationship with her mother has been praised for its visceral writing and its brilliant characterisation. One reviewer concluded that it “reads like a delicious novel” and that Ms McCarthy emerges as “a writer of unusual ability”. Another reviewer concluded that the book is “complex, thrilling, and raw. It even has a perfect beginning, middle and end. It’s the opposite of comfort reading”.

Ms McCarthy grew up in Ireland, coming to New Zealand in her twenties. She started her radio career at Auckland’s 95bFM before moving onto RNZ National, where ‘Summer Noelle’ ran for nearly a decade. ‘Buck Rabbit’, her first foray into non-fiction, won the Short Memoir section of the Fish Publishing International Writing competition in 2020. Since 2017, she and her husband John Daniell have been making critically acclaimed podcasts as Bird of Paradise Productions. She has written columns, reviews, first-person essays, and features for a wide range of media in New Zealand including Metro, The NZ Herald, and Newsroom. In Ireland, she has provided commentary for radio and written for The Irish Times, The Independent, and The Irish Examiner.

While holding the residency, Ms McCarthy will work on a book tentatively titled Count on Dracula. It will mix memoir and criticism as it explores “the subterranean nature of sexual wanting” and considers the themes of Bram Stoker’s classic novel and the vampire’s impact on culture. The work will also chronicle a changing relationship with the idea of the vampire as the author moves from girlhood, to womanhood, to becoming a wife and mother.

Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters, Damien Wilkins, says, “Noelle’s debut book was one of the revelations of the year. It will be exciting to have Noelle at the IIML.”

Commenting on the appointment, Ms McCarthy says, “Twenty years since I last darkened the doors of academia, I can’t believe I’m being allowed back in to work on a story about sex and vampires. It’s a huge honour, I’m very grateful.”

Ms McCarthy takes up the residency at the IIML on 1 February 2023.