Hannah Nicole Mae is a “BookTok” sensation. Her series, titled “This is what I think it would be like if I was the Morally Grey Fantasy Villain’s Personal Assistant,” garners hundreds of thousands of views. This is definitely for good reason. The TikTok series is filled with readers’ favorite tropes, from amnesia to grumpy vs. sunshine to love potions. This week, I sat down with Hannah to learn more about the stories we all know and love.
Her Campus (HC): Can you tell us a little bit about why you started the morally grey fantasy villain’s assistant series?
Hannah Nicole Mae (HNM): So, going back to the beginning is difficult because the series has grown and developed in a way I never could’ve anticipated. Originally, I was just trying to think of funny skit ideas. I loved the idea of making a parody when it came to “stereotypes” in fantasy characters and thinking of how I’d interact with them.
The first thing that came to mind was to be the assistant or sidekick to the Fantasy Heroine. But, I was struck with so many more ideas for the “Villain.” I had only thought about doing one or two videos, but everyone seemed to connect to the storyline as much as I did.
HC: In the series, you are the main character despite being the villain’s assistant. Why did you choose to be his assistant rather than another villain, or even a hero?
HNM: I think we all daydream of being the main character at one point or another. So much of literature and mainstream media say to do that, you must have some special trait or power that makes you different from everyone else.
I am a firm believer that no matter what your role is in life, it has value. Your story can be interesting and epic no matter what part you play, and this series is proof of that. In addition to that, I’ve always felt like I had side character energy. So, I took that and made it into the main character role.
HC: The morally grey fantasy villain’s assistant series is all about tropes. What are some of your favorite tropes and why?
HNM: I adore tropes because they’re everywhere. It’s basically like giving thousands of writers a prompt and watching how different and varied the styles and responses are. I can be made to love any trope if it’s truly well done and well thought-out. My absolute favorite is the Grumpy vs. Sunshine character romance, which is easily seen in novels and TikTok videos. I just think the contrast between the character personalities creates the funniest, sweetest and squeal-worthy moments between the characters.
HC: You’ve mentioned that you are writing a book based on the morally grey villain’s assistant TikTok series. What has been the biggest challenge when switching from video to text format?
HNM: Writing the book happened kind of by accident. I’d been doing the series for a few months at this point with many requests to turn it into a book, but I had another project in progress. I wasn’t even sure how I would go about doing it.
One day, it felt like the story was scratching at my brain, waiting for an outlet. So, I sat down and just wrote with no plan. Suddenly, I was 6,000 words in and the story felt like it was the one I’d been meant to tell. I put my other project aside that day and fully committed to finishing the Villain’s Assistant book.
Since the beginning, there have been ups and downs. There’s just so much more to the characters, storyline and romance when you have to get it down on paper. It’s everything I wanted to put in the TikTok series but couldn’t because of the limitations with working through just “The Assistant’s” perspective.
The hardest part is making sure the story still feels “new” but also familiar. I want it to feel like an extension of the series with a slightly new storyline, rather than a direct copy.
HC: What about playing the role of the villain’s assistant brings you the most joy?
HNM: The biggest thing is probably the absolute euphoria I feel when I get an episode plot point just right and flex my comedy muscles. A lot of people don’t know this, but about 95-percent of the series is improv.
Another huge thing for me is the community we’ve built with the series. On my worst mental health days, I just go through the overwhelming support in my comment section and my DMs. Some share sweet stories of how people have bonded over the series and how it helps them get through the hard stuff. Those messages always bring tears to my eyes.
It’s so incredible seeing your creative art bringing people together and having it mean as much to someone else as it does to you. My biggest goal in life is to help people and to make their lives a little happier. It feels like with this series I’m finally doing that and it’s been the most unexpected, delightful surprise I could have ever asked for.
The series has been an outlet for me. I struggle deeply with depression and other mental health issues, and while I know the series has helped so many people through their hard times, it helps me too. It gives me somewhere to lean when I feel like I can’t stand on my own. I know that sounds dramatic, but finding reasons to smile when you’re truly low is hard.
Creating for this series always pulls me out of that and brings me the sincerest form of joy. For that and everything and everyone who’s come with it, I am eternally grateful.