Who are you?
I'm Alex Kaine, sometimes nicknamed “Ax.” My pronouns are she/her or they/them. I work in tech by day, but I've been writing since I was a teenager. I have an MFA in Fiction. I’ve written a handful of short stories and novellas I am proud of, but I am unpublished. Currently, I’m working on two novel projects, both in the sci-fi genre.
Why this project?
I read Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla in my early twenties, when I was just coming to terms with my queer identity. While I appreciated the novel’s Gothic elements and the beauty of Laura and Carmilla’s romance, I found its conclusion disappointing, abrupt, and patriarchal: the men destroy Carmilla to “save” the protagonist. I couldn’t stop imagining how the story could go if written without the constraints of Victorian principles. I imagined writing a fan-fiction version where everything else about the story was basically the same, but the ending was converted from patriarchal banishment to queer victory.
A few years later, I was stuck in the middle of a massively over-ambitious novel project, and decided to take a break. I wanted writing to be fun again, and I’d gotten myself in a bad headspace. Around this time I had happened to re-read Carmilla—I like to read favorite horror classics around Halloween—and I of course was dreaming again about “how it could be” with the ending as I read. Since I was stuck, I thought—why not? Why not just go for it? It’d just be for me, no one else ever needed to see it.
Once I finished, I was really happy with it and figured there had to be other queer readers out there who’d dreamed a new ending, too, and who might want to read my version. I did try querying it, but it is such a non-traditional project that I decided to share it by publishing it serially online, free of charge.
When I started planning the website, I realized I needed some artwork to make it visually engaging. After I began the first illustration (“Fond Pressure” from Chapter 4), I thought it would be cool to have one per chapter. Originally I planned to make an illustration for each chapter myself. However, after two months of making a single one, I realized that wasn’t feasible! So I commissioned artists I admire to contribute to the project.
Why was it important to you to keep as much of Le Fanu’s original text as possible and write the new text in his voice?
Because I sincerely love the original novel. Personally, I don’t think Le Fanu wanted the novel to end the way it does. So much of it is written as if the Laura and Carmilla are made for each other, that their love is delectable, and that Victorian principles are oppressive… I get the feeling Le Fanu wanted them to end up together, but felt constrained by the culture in which he lived to conform the story to Victorian sensibilities.
My basic intention was to bring out the best in the original novel and try to make it the best it could possibly be. That might sound arrogant, but this project was originally just for me… I wasn’t really thinking of me making this thing that Sheridan Le Fanu, a writer of classics, “better.” I just wanted the version of Carmilla that I wanted to read as a queer lady to exist. Revision (not drafting) is my strong suit as a writer, and so I wanted to utilize that skill to make it happen. I wanted the book I loved to be something I could love even more. And to have fun doing it.
It was weird and uncomfortable at first, because basically I was inhabiting this text another writer made and remixing it, which I’m sure plenty of people would consider plagiarism, or at least lacking in artistic integrity. Coming from an academic background, I certainly had a constant critic going off there at the start in my head. Carmilla is in the public domain, of course, but even still I had to get over a feeling that this project lacked integrity because it wasn’t fully original. The text I was manipulating wasn’t a “draft” I’d created.
Thinking of myself as a conduit for Le Fanu’s original wishes and learning to really live in Laura’s voice and write it helped. It was a bit like method-acting. I tried to “channel” Le Fanu as I worked and make it into what I hope he always wanted it to be. Throughout the process, I imagined conversing with his ghost… checking in with him or saying a little prayer asking for his blessing as I wrote and rewrote. It’s all very fanciful, but I like to imagine that he was able to write the work he wanted through my fingertips.
Regardless, I got past the weird and uncomfortable stuff, and had a ton of fun, and now the version I always wanted to read exists, and I love it. I hope you'll enjoy it, too.
Will you change things based reader reactions?
No. The story is already in its finished form. I completed the manuscript in 2018. After my initial re-write of Sheridan Le Fanu’s original text, I had beta readers from my critique group and friends give a lot of feedback. I used that feedback to iterate a few more times, and now it is complete.
Of course, readers are welcome to discuss feedback, reactions, and opinions amongst themselves, but I don’t plan to change anything based on that for this particular work.
What’s your writing practice?
My writing practice is to wake up very early and write for an hour every morning before work. I used to write for an hour at night but I found it was quite difficult to muster the mental energy after a stressful day at work. It took me a few years to develop my regular, disciplined practice. If writing every day sounds too hard, start with every weekend!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Other than Sheridan Le Fanu? :) James Baldwin, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ted Chiang, Frank Herbert, Ann Joslin Williams, L. Annette Binder, Amélie Nothomb, P. D. James, Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, and William Faulkner.
Do you have a literary agent?
I don’t! Are you an agent who wants to connect? Contact me here.
Can I read CARMILLA REVAMPED offline?
You can! CARMILLA REVAMPED is now available on Kindle or Paperback for a few bucks. It does not include illustrations. The full text will remain up for free on this website indefinitely.