[Interview] Women/Nonbinary Individuals in Horror [Tam M. Nicnevin]

We sat down virtually with Tam M. Nicnevin, a nonbinary erotic author of dark fairy tale retellings. Here’s more about their writing, and the horror movies that inspire them.

MT: You write horror, erotic horror to be exact, can you tell us what lead you to write in this genre and what themes if any, you enjoy exploring the most?

Tam M. Nicnevin: A great number of the adults and children I knew growing up thought I was a horrible person for myriad reasons, most of which distilled down to: I was Black, autistic, queer, traumatized, mentally ill, and a child. I was often told “only a monster or a freak could ever love you.” I started to believe it, yet every child wants to be loved and accepted. I wasn’t receiving that from most of the people in my life, I believed due to my monstrous nature.

So I became enthralled with the idea of real monsters like vampires and gargoyles and demons being the safe haven where I could find love, because we were all of us shunned by the “good” people. I adored the concept of rescue from abuse being found in a creature or creatures the abusers would be horrified by. Asking the question, “You say I’m a monster, but did you truly think I’m the only one? And did you think that monsters are incapable of loving me just because ~you~ are incapable of it?” To play with the horror part of erotic horror only applying to the villains, of their victim and the monsters who love their victim becoming their worst nightmare.

The reason I write erotic horror is also because I am autistic. I weary of being told that because of autism, I cannot desire nor consent to physical affection or sex, much less kink, or even simply dating or marriage, despite being an adult. So I challenge this stereotype of the sexless autist in my writing. Some autists don’t care for sex or romance because they are on one or both of the aro-ace spectrums (similar to allistics), but I am not one of those people.

MT: Those are great themes to explore! I explore them as well in my writing (but with vampires). I too find the ‘darker’ love more interesting than the ‘norm’ because I too grew up mentally ill, Black, and more, and was repeatedly told I was too weird or “off.” You have a release slated for release this month, can you tell us a bit about that release?

TMN: A Slight Monstrous Tendency, it is tentatively slated for October 29th. I’ve been unwell and unable to write recently so I’m uncertain if I’ll be able to make that.

I write retellings and remixes – my debut was a remix of Snow White and Alice in Wonderland – and this story is a mix of myriad Maiden in the Tower stories (Rapunzel, Persinette, The Blue Bird, that sort of thing) and the horror story The Yellow Wallpaper.

The first time I read The Yellow Wallpaper – which is about a woman who has recently birthed her first child and her husband psychologically abuses her, claiming her understandable exhaustion and stress is proof of “a slight nervous tendency” toward hysterics; eventually the husband’s abuses drive her mad, and she begins to see women trapped in the bedroom wallpaper – my first thought upon finishing it was, “I hope she kills that bastard.” It reminded me of the darker retellings of Rapunzel I had read in the past where the maiden in the tower had gone mad or committed suicide or been twisted into something monstrous and terrible.
Then I began to wonder, what if she wasn’t mad? What if there truly ~was~ someone or something in the wallpaper, in the walls? And what if something monstrous and terrible ~did~ kill that abusive bastard in the end and get her out of that Hell? So I began working on this next story.

What you find pleasure in, is what you find pleasure in.

Cover art of T.M.’s story.
Excerpt of Mirror Monster.

MT: I appreciate your reading of The Yellow Wallpaper. I loved reading and analyzing that story in college. You had an erotic fantasy novelette release back in September with rave reviews. Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing that story and what themes you were looking to, forgive the pun, tease out of the story? Do you think you met those themes?

TMN: I originally wrote it for Violet Gaze Press’s Monster Lover anthology; it was difficult due to my disabilities because I needed to write quickly enough to get my work to a freelance editor in time to make corrections and submit to the anthology, but I managed. Shortly after the acceptances and rejections were sent out, it was revealed that the press had grossly mistreated author R.M. Virtues, who had been a driving force behind the anthology, and after multiple people critiqued VGP’s pattern of mistreating marginalized authors, the press canceled the anthology, so I suppose I dodged a silver bullet.

Initially I had planned to submit a different piece about oft-overlooked Greek monsters, but it was too long for the anthology requirements, so I wrote Mirror Monster instead. I really wanted to play with the color scheme of Snow White (black, white, and red) but turn some things around with the story, explore the neutrality of tools and the importance of intention.

In the old German story, the magic mirror is the Evil Queen’s tool, and the poisoned apple is not the only attempt to kill Snow White. There’s also a poisoned comb and a corset that suffocates her. I wanted to play with the idea that these things, markers of the Evil Queen, could also be enjoyed by the Snow White character, and that she could become a queen in her own right. Queens and mirrors and the color scheme then led me to the Wonderland aspect. The use of mirrors also made me want to play with the idea of truly seeing someone – do our abusers see us and realize what they’re trying to kill when they hurt us, or do they not comprehend what they’re looking at and who they’re dealing with? 

And of course, the focus on mirrors and seeing people allowed me a fun spicy scene with a mirror. I very much wanted to write a story where my autistic heroine was both very sexual and very comfortable with her sexuality. I wanted very much to show competence and carnality in a character society would deem incapable of both, and to show that disability can be accommodated in sex without “killing the mood,” a complaint I have heard often.

All in all, I think I managed to put everything I hoped to include in my debut.

MT: That sounds ambitious but engaging! What do you hope to tackle next in your writing? Can you give us an example of anything else you’ve written?

TMN: Besides finishing A Slight Monstrous Tendency and the next titles in that series, I have several standalone ideas I wish to explore, playing off of tropes I’ve enjoyed in books by other authors. I have a plan for a reverse harem story about the mistress of an evil castle and her minions, and for Christmas I hope I’m well enough to write a reverse harem story involving various winter fiends such as Krampus. I would also like to explore some kinks in my writing that I have recently discovered in the works of writer friends, such as ovipositors and spider men and engaging in conjugal relations with tentacled shadows. I also want to make a point to tackle consent checks in my next few stories, as I often am told they “kill the mood,” and want to feature submissive men in something: they are so relatively rare in fiction.

Mirror Monster on My Wall is my debut for original work; I have written some erotic one shot fanfiction for the Hellboy fandom and the Marvel fandom as gifts for friends, and I am in the process of writing a Supernatural/Wayward Children crossover fanfic with a friend, in order to give some justice to the monsters unfairly murdered by the Winchesters. We are still struggling through the first chapter, I fear, due to both of us being ill rather frequently. We shall get there eventually, though!

The cover art for A Slight Monstrous Tendency.

MT: I love that you’re writing stories for friends. It must definitely keep the writing juices flowing! What’s a recent horror movie you’ve watched (if any) that are in line with your horror romance stories? I know a lot of monstery-Romance writers loved The Shape of Water.

TMN: I have not seen The Shape of Water yet! I read the novelization, however, and enjoyed it immensely. It was wonderful to read scenes from the fish-man’s perspective.

I am not certain how “in line” this is with my own work but the film that truly spurred me to explore monster romance was the original Hellraiser and its direct sequel, and I recently watched the film Dark Angel: The Ascent (which incidentally has a dog named Hellraiser in it). I have always found Pinhead and the female Cenobite rather exquisitely beautiful in a grotesque way, and had a rather large crush on them both when I was young. I rewatch them often. I also recently watched the 2001 film Dagon, which is inspired by The Shadows Over Innsmouth.

MT: I haven’t seen The Shape of Water either, and had no idea it was a book first. That’s interesting. Hellraiser seems to be a common love amongst horror lovers with a love for grotesque monster. What do you like about Dark Angel: The Ascent and what inspiration if any did it give your writing?

TMN: Dark Angel: The Ascent greatly inspired me. It is about a demoness who falls in love with a mortal physician; it’s a very sweet and gentle love story set against the backdrop of violent demonic vengeance against predatory men. The romance is simply so very sweet, and the mortal man is so kind and caring, and willing to do things that embarrass him for the demoness’s sake (such as go to an adult theater to view a very adult film, simply to satisfy her curiosity, as she has never seen human sex before). It is older, and campy, but a very lovely movie, I think. It showed me how to write gentle but brutal monsters.

The film Dagon I enjoyed somewhat less, only because the horror element was much stronger and there was very little romance or eroticism, and I like to see both. However, it humanized the monstrous Deep Ones far better than that wretch Lovecraft did in the source material, and the character Uxía gave me the courage to write beautiful and grotesque monsters, rather than being too afraid to venture beyond the tamer vampires and ghosts and such. If you Google Uxía Cambarro, you will see she is very beautiful, but a full body photograph shows she is absolutely not human at all.

The very beautiful Uxía Cambarro played by Macarena Gómez in Dagon (2001) | Lions Gate Entertainment

MT: I’ve never heard of Dagon but your description of it makes me want to give it a chance. How important do you feel it is, as a writer, to consume other writers’ work in your genre? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers that seek to write the more depraved romance that would make their mothers blush?

TMN: I think it is absolutely vital to read in your genre for myriad reasons. Most especially in this genre, monster romance or erotic horror, other authors are not your competition. Their stories can inspire you. One can learn to write better by reading others and seeing what works for you and what does not.

Although social media is not necessary to publish, I have made so many author friends just in the last few months on Twitter, and the sort of cheerleading and support I have received can be very helpful when things become difficult. Reading more adventurous and brazen authors can also help when you needs must step beyond your comfort zone and explore new tropes or kinks in your work.

As for advice…my own parents are supportive, though they skip the more explicit scenes in my work, so take this with a sprinkle of salt. However, my feeling is this. A great many people have sexual acts they enjoy experiencing or reading. So long as these acts are safe, sane, and consensual for the real, nonfictional people involved, no act is more or less depraved than another. Human beings’ sexuality is so impossibly complex and diverse.

So to any writers out there struggling with this specific problem – what you find pleasure in, is what you find pleasure in. So long as you are not hurting anyone (without their enthusiastic consent), there is no ill in what gives you pleasure. Write what you enjoy. Writing is work, but it is supposed to be fun work as often as it can be. The monsters shan’t judge you for your pleasures, and neither shall I. Writing spice is an experience; simply make certain it is a good experience, and have fun.

MT: Wonderful advice Tam! Thank you for wanting tot be part of this project and we look forward to what other spicy writing projects you have down the line!

Full cover art for Mirror Monster On My Wall:

Mirror Monster On My Wall
Mirror Monster On My Wall

Tam M. Nicnevin is a disabled, mentally & chronically ill, fat autistic Black person. She is pansexual, polyamorous, and non-binary. Xe lives with their spouse and life-partners, as well as their cats in the Sonoran Desert. She has been in love with monsters since xe was little, and has been in love with historical romance and fairytales almost as long as that. Their favorite holidays are Halloween and Christmas, so keep an eye out for some spicy stories in honor of those days.

You can find Tam and their work at any of their links below!

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