Twin Flames With Tea Hacic-Vlahovic
Columnist and fiction writer Tea Hacic-Vlahovic divulges her creative process, her blogger origins, and why she prefers to read books by women.
By Cora Lee
Photos by Eric Persona
Hot Girl Lit is a monthly column that catalogs hot reads by hot writers.
Tea Hacic-Vlahovic is a triple threat: funny, sexy, and undeniably cool, like the punk rock girl you wished you were in high school. She’s also a triple Sagittarius, which is why she “can’t keep her mouth shut,” as she told me. But once she starts talking, I don’t want her to stop.
Hacic-Vlahovic was born in Croatia, raised in North Carolina, and spent her early twenties in Milan—the city that inspired her first novel, Life of the Party (Clash Books, 2020), which follows a young expat named Mia living a decidedly unglamorous party-girl life. Publisher's Weekly described it as a “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-style fever dream as intense as it is dripping with style.” Her second novel, A Cigarette Lit Backwards (Harry N. Abrams, 2022), is a coming of age story set in a small-town punk scene in North Carolina. Hacic-Vlahovic has been called an “MDMA-fueled Oscar Wilde” by Autre Magazine. Her writing is gritty and energetic. Even when she dives into dark subject matter—eating disorders, sexual assault, overdoses—she doesn’t wallow. Her work is infused with humor, attitude, and personal experience. Reading it makes you want to party with her til dawn.
We met up at the Holloway House in West Hollywood. Tea called to say she was hungover and running late, but when she showed up, she looked incredible in a white Lolita-esque dress with bows at the waist, paired with red tights, red pumps, and red lipstick. “That’s the nice thing about having all these cute clothes,” she said. “I can get ready really fast.”
We talked for two hours but I could have listened to her all night. I texted her afterwards because I forgot to tell her I’m also a Sagittarius and also have a tattoo of a rose in the same spot she does (between the tits). She responded, “That makes 1000% sense. We’re the best.”
Cora Lee: Your life has been filled with fashion, music, art, etc—was writing always a part of it?
Tea Hacic-Vlahovic: When I moved to Milan to study fashion, I hated fashion school so much, I didn’t speak Italian, and I felt really alienated by everything. So I started these blogs that were just for my mom to read and my dumb friends back in North Carolina. I had this one blog called Crumpets that was all about fashion stuff, and I had this anonymous Tumblr called Sugartits where I would talk about sex and give advice to girls. Back then, you went out and met people and they gave you jobs—things used to happen in real life. I met these editors at parties, and they happened to be reading my blogs, and one thing led to another and I got my first columns, for Vice and Wired Italy, and then it just went from there. I was bad at everything else, and this kind of just happened. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do after I came home from a party. We used to go out and live, and come home and write about it in our blogs. Now we go out with the purpose of sharing…you go out already picturing the post you’re gonna do, you’re living for the Instagram. We used to just live.
CL: Your writing is very voice driven and recognizable. Was that a conscious choice or did it develop as a result of writing about life?
THV: I think it’s a mix of having no education and just writing to my blog audience, so being very direct. Another thing that really shaped my style, which I resented for years but now am really grateful for, is the fact that when I first started writing I was in Italy so I knew that everything I wrote would be translated. My first published writing for years, aside from my blogs, was translated into Italian. So I was always conscious while writing these articles that only my editor would see the original version and everyone else would read some fucked up version of it. So when choosing my words, I was never trying to show off; I was never trying to make it flowery. I was trying to be direct—
[Here we get cut off by the server bringing our drinks. Tea only asked for a Peroni, in the bottle, but had told me earlier— “Order whatever you want. It’s on me, obviously. Get the lobster!”]
CL: I admire writing like that…some people think if something is hard to read that means it’s “good.” But that’s not true!
THV: The point of writing is for someone to read it! I believe art is worth art in itself, but ultimately, you want others to read your shit. If you’re bored writing it, someone is going to be bored reading it. I think things should be simple…coffee, beer, dick. If it’s good, it’s good!
CL: What does your process look like for writing?
THV: It involves a lot of wasting time…I start every day with good intentions; I’m an early riser. Love a good early morning: I take my dog out, I get breakfast, I clean the whole house, I put on some outfits, I answer my email, I check the news, now it’s time for lunch! Now it’s time for another dog walk! I spend the whole day procrastinating, and I get my best writing done at night after I’ve checked everything I can online, and I can’t clean the bathtub one more time because my fingers are bleeding. When I’m pushing my bedtime or a deadline, that’s when I get my best stuff done. Or I write really well when I’m out, and I can listen to other people and feel like I’m partying. That’s how I wrote all my columns in Milan.
CL: Life of the Party felt very immediate: in the moment, in the narrator’s head, where A Cigarette Lit Backwards read as a little more plot driven. Both worked really well, but did you approach each one differently?
THV: Yeah, I approached them differently on purpose. The first one I wrote in four months, I wanted it to be in first-person present tense. I wanted you to feel like that dumb bitch Mia herself. I just didn’t know if I was capable of writing a book, so I just wanted to get it out. I was very surprised that it worked and very surprised that anyone read it. So I gave myself a little more time with my second one. I tried to write a more classic story. It took a year to write it.
CL: So what is the third book about?
THV: Well, Mia was 90% me, Kat was 60% me, and this new girl Zoe is 30% me, I would say. I always have three letter names for my characters. She’s another Balkan bitch, she’s a writer in LA. I have two male supporting characters and I’m writing from their perspective too. It was so fun writing from a boy’s perspective, so that’s something I’m excited about. Hopefully I didn’t do a bad job the way boys do when they write about us—“She looked at herself in the mirror and she couldn’t BELIEVE how big her BOOBS were on her small frame."
CL: What are some of the influences you draw from in your work?
THV: I wanted all my books to be written as if they were punk rock songs. I think the best writers are usually musicians, like David Bowie, Ian McKaye, Henry Rollins. If in one of my books, a passage can feel like a Misfits lyric, then I don’t need to be Dostoyevsky.
CL: It’s fun for me to read your books because I grew up in the punk scene in San Diego. Boys and music and living your life for whatever show is that weekend…you capture that really well. It feels like the whole world at that age.
THV: It’s such a blessing to grow up a girl who is, or feels, hideous enough to become alternative. It’s such a blessing to become an underground girl at a young age because you have a richer, fuller experience.
CL: But you don’t even know it until later. You said in an interview with Coeval that as a teenager you “rejected femininity because [you] dreaded what came with it,” but then you realized there’s no escape from how society treats women.
THV: The thing is, if your book is read by a million people, but just by women, you’re taught to feel you’re not a real writer. If your book isn’t blurbed by a boy, you aren’t a real writer. But that shouldn’t be the case. If men just read men, it’s okay, because that’s “real” literature. But guess what? The only books I can get through are by women. Our stories are more interesting, because we’ve been through more shit.