A conversation with the writer Lauren Hough
"What's interesting I think is I've always been this person, with this voice, and the way people react to me when I speak has never changed. They either love it or they goddamn want me to shut up."
“Defies categorisation” has become its own stupidly vague category of late, which renders the term a meaningless at best and at worst an inexcusable cliche. AND YET every once in a while I stumble across a writer who truly refuses to be slotted, whose work, subject, style, voice, turn-of-phrase, punctuation, whatever — tickles me under the chin then right-hooks me sideways leaving me speechless in the gutter, concussed for days. And when that happens, I stagger to my feet, heart-soaring and do a little drunken Irish jig down the road. Because it reminds me that true originality is still alive and well in a world where so much of what’s out there often feels formulaic, derivative or just flat out dull.
Lauren Hough is flat out, but dull she is not. She’s one of those rare writers whose background and work are difficult to describe without sounding like a deranged fabulist but allow me to try. Oooohkey, so here to start? According to the bio on her author site, “Lauren is a New York Times Best Selling author and essayist. She was born in Berlin, Germany, and raised in seven countries, and Amarillo, Texas. She’s been an Air Force Airman, a green-aproned barista, a bouncer, a bartender, and, for a time, a cable guy.”
Fair enough, but that leaves out the not insignificant fact that she’s a six-foot-tall lesbian dog-owner who lives in Austin, Texas, has won a bunch of literary awards and can single-handedly (sort of) fix up a dodgy old van. Also the minor detail that she was raised in a religious abuse and sex cult, the Children of God, that trafficked Hough and countless other blameless child ‘members’ across the globe, robbing her of an education, a name, sense of self, yet somehow, inexplicably, leaving her immense writing talent in tact. Also back in the 90s she was court-marshalled by the US military who accused her of fire-bombing her own car for the insurance money during the 'don’t-ask-don’t-tell’ era. Plus she’s a die hard Dixie Chicks fan and in addition to her brilliant memoir, a hilarious (if agonised and ambivalent) Tweeter as well as the author of Bad Reads a compulsive and hilarious Substack that’s about, well, whatever weird random shit is on her mind.
Listen to me now: You just have to read it.
And the same goes for my Q & A with her below. I’ve honestly never really done an interview quite like it. Because I’m newly obsessed by her work, I asked her a series of in-depth, overly-intense, at times tangential questions figuring she’d either dismiss me out of hand, answer in monosyllables or maybe just maybe join me on the same weird overly-intense tangential plane. And bless her, she clambered up! If this is the first you’ve heard of Lauren Hough, all I can say is YOU ARE WELCOME.
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