What Screams May Come: Europea Halls by Alan Shivers

banner What Screams May Come by Rick Hipson

Europea Halls: A YA Slasher Trilogy by Alan Shivers
Crystal Lake Entertainment (May 2024)

The Synopsis

When the survivors of the summer massacre in Budapest are forced to go to Brussels, they will learn the hard way that the final chapter of a Slasher Trilogy always goes back to the beginning.

(Interview conducted by Rick Hipson)

cover of Europea Falls 3CEMETERY DANCE: Feel free to skip this first question should it hold the potential to incriminate you in any way. I’d love to hear about when why you personally chose to be published under a pen name and how you came about choosing the name your writing would come to be known by.

ALAN SHIVERS: I chose a pen name for two reasons. The first one being that my “real” name is Flemish (As I am Belgian) and most people wouldn’t remember it, let alone pronounce it (it isn’t exactly the most hHorror sounding name either, haha!). The second reason is that I wanted to pay homage to my love for ’90s slashers. Alan Shivers refers to Helen Shivers, my favorite slasher character and chase scene, from I Know What You Did Last Summer.

When you sat down to bang out the first draft of your first book in the Europea Halls trilogy, did you know from the get-go that it would be a trilogy?

In all honesty, I did know I would write a trilogy, because one of my best friends is a well-known author and she told me it is best to write a series if you are starting out as an indie author. These are my first books, I am learning (and often failing) as I go, but I have noticed marketing-wise it has been a good decision to go for a trilogy. It’s also fun to play with trilogy tropes and subvert them! Plus, I get to crawl back into the POV of characters I know and love.

How does writing a series compare, for you, to writing a stand-alone book, by way of your general process, mindset, and personal satisfaction?

I haven’t written a stand-alone book yet (I will this summer), so I cannot really compare the two. What I can say is that writing an entire trilogy has really become an emotionally deep and rewarding experience. I had gotten quite attached to certain protagonists and killing a lot of them off wasn’t always easy. Also, I got into the flow and felt more self-confident by book three, so it’s a great learning curve. You get feedback from editors, reviewers, Beta readers etc. and it has helped me tremendously to (hopefully) become a better author through their feedback.

Is the marketing and launch of a series different in any way to that of a single novel or novella? 

It definitely is. For the launch of book two I actually promoted book one more and sold it for 99 cents for a week. For the launch of book three on May 1 I set book 1 for free. This brings in new readers for the first installment each time and it’s a nice way to gain readership. My ARC (advance reading copy) team is small, but a team of loyal readers who have read book 1 and 2, so I know they have enjoyed the other two slashers. It isn’t that easy to find ARC readers for book 3 if many people haven’t even read the first, which is why it is so important to me to have a loyal ARC team set up from the previous books.

I love the fact that you made your series young adult accessible. Start ‘em young and hook ‘em early, right? Other than toning down coarse language, what other liberties might you have needed to pay attention to ensure something as typically brutal as a slasher tale would be suitable for younger audiences?

If you think about it, the slasher movies in the ’80s and ’90s always catered to young adults. It is a bit similar here: the protagonists are teenagers, so YA readers can see themselves in the characters. Also, there is no spice (just some cute romance here and there), because I wanted to focus on strong female friendship ties, rather than the typical “You have sex, you die” slasher trope. Surprisingly, my audience so far have mostly been adults, rather than young adults. I think a lot of us do miss those cheesy, campy MTV-vibe slashers from the ’90s, so it is a bit of a nostalgia trip. Also, the ’90s are hip again for teens, so I hope that’ll convince them to give my books a go.

Was it always your intention to cater to the YA crowd, or did that focus come after you began writing book one?

I knew for a debut I’d feel uncomfortable writing spicy content. I wanted to write in the genre that I have always loved, which is YA literature. Even as an adult now, I frequently read YA novels and it is a bit like a comfort blanket to me. There’s something cozy about YA, so I am glad I took that route too. I also didn’t want any cursing in my novels (that might be a cultural thing — cursing is a bit of a no-go in Belgium), so it naturally turned out to be quite YA geared.

What has been the most rewarding, or perhaps even the most unexpected, reward for you throughout the journey now that the third book in the series is ready to drop?

I love it when readers DM me with comments or questions about the books, so being interactive and making so many connections has definitely been the best aspect! I have met some great fellow indie horror authors and I will even go to a signing in the UK at the end of August with over 30 other horror authors, so that should be fun (and quite terrifying as a newbie). I have also really enjoyed podcast interviews a lot, it’s so great to connect with other horror lovers. It’s such an inclusive, warm community and I feel very grateful to be part of it now.

As with any good slasher, the thrills are in the kills, and the more gruesome and imaginative they are the better. How do you attack this point (pun intended) while keeping the slashing fresh and interesting over the landscape of multiple books?

Great question, actually! I did notice myself feeling a bit stuck at times by book 3, thinking “what hasn’t been done yet?” That’s when the research comes in. I definitely have some original weapons in book 3! The killing is intentional and the further along the trilogy, the deeper the emotional impact. So I don’t use gore for shock value, it needs to hurt the reader a little when their favorite character is offed in a gruesome way.

What makes your characters and the horror they encounter not unlike cookie cutter fodder who are simply there to be picked off in fun-filled brutal fashion?

From the get-go I wanted these six teenage girls to be different than the typical slasher girls. The protagonists are well-educated, quirky, a bit geeky (into architecture, superhero movies, techno, …) and a mix of different European nationalities. Many slashers are American or British, so the fact that these books are set in Europe allows for an extra layer of cultural and linguistic depth. These girls really stick together and there’s absolutely no “Mean Girls” aspect to them. I wanted to show the bonds of a strong sisterhood, rather than the stereotypical and toxic male gaze of backstabbing girls.

Usually, for those who survive a slasher, their character arc is marked by the number of gashes, busted bones and, in some cases, a severed body part or two. Clearly, this isn’t quite the stereotypical trope you wanted to convey. Can you give us a sampling of how your characters tend to develop over the course of your series, without giving too much away?

photo of Alan Shivers
Alan Shivers

Mental health awareness and PTSD awareness specifically is really important to me personally. I wanted to bring that into the series and focus on what trauma can do to not just your mind, but your body too. I talk about PTSD attacks, intergenerational trauma and you really see the aftermath of the killings. The Final Girl(s) have gone through a lot, and I wanted the reader to feel that physical and emotional weight she/they carry.

Your series is promoted as Scream meets I Know What You Did Last Summer meets Urban Legend. When it comes to the Scream franchise in particular, which your series resembles by way of the cat-and-mouse whodunnit approach, what do you think has contributed to the success of this franchise when compared to other slashers of its generation? And, if I may add to that, how have those attributed influenced your own writing of your Europea Hall books?

I think the nice thing about the Scream franchise is that there will always be a new Ghostface and a fresh killer reveal. In that sense, the final scene is almost a detective thriller rather than a horror movie, in my opinion. It’s about the reveal and the motive behind the killings, which goes a bit deeper than a Jason Voorhees kill, as fun as they are too! 

Scream has definitely influenced my novels, how could it not? It’s such a great slasher! The opening scene of Europea Halls 1 definitely has a Drew Barrymore vibe to it. Other than that, chase scenes! I love a good chase scene and all the movies you have mentioned above have some of the best chase scenes in slasher history.

If your promotional plug for the above-mentioned films hasn’t already given this answer away, what is your favorite slasher villain, and why?

Actually, you might not expect this from my style of writing, but I do love Art the Clown from Terrifier. I could never write in such an extreme way, but the physicality of Art is so gross and creepy, yet hilarious too at times. I love to hate him.

As an obvious fellow fan of slashers, do you have any single scene in mind that stands out above the rest as your most memorable slasher moment?

Definitely Helen Shiver’s chase scene in I Know What You Did Last Summer. That was so well-paced, and she almost made it to the end of the movie! Sasha’s chase in Urban Legend is a close second, that one is so tense too.

If you had full control over any and all movie franchises you desired, which two slasher villains would you enjoy pitting against each other?

I think Michael and Jason would be a nice match off, as they are both silent killers with some supernatural hints. They are similar in a way, even though Jason can be a bit more brutal. That’d be a fun movie!

Are there any two villains you think would pair up well together for an ultimate slasher buddy flic?

Freddy Krueger and Chucky would have the best dialogues ever in a slasher. Comedy gold, those witty killers put together!

As the curator of all the mayhem that goes down in your books, by default, you are clearly the final boy who makes it out of each book alive so let me ask you: How do you come back from such a blood-soaked romp, and where do you go from here, creatively speaking?

I actually felt quite emotional when I finished the epilogue of book 3. I had to say goodbye to a fun, yet scary world I had created. I love the protagonists too, it’ll be sad not writing through their POV again.

I am currently writing a spicy (it’s about time) queer horror story for Books of Horror. That’ll be a fun new project. After that, a whole new stand-alone slasher book is coming out late summer. I can’t give you any details on that yet, but it’s a fresh take on the genre and far more adult oriented.

And finally, Alan, any last words before your unsuspecting readers dive into a world of blood and thrills with Europea Halls 3?

I’d like to say to both you and the readers: thank you for taking the time to read through this interview and for giving my books a shot! They have been written with love and during a rather tough period in my life, so to see the reception it is getting makes me a happy slasher bunny. I went from writing book 1 during the pandemic and in the middle of a break-up feeling as low as it gets to now enjoying this entire ride. I appreciate you all. Oh, and come to Brussels! I’d happily be your tour guide!

Find Allan Shivers on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok: AlanShiversAuthor

Purchase the entire trilogy: Europea Halls: A Slasher Trilogy (3 book series)

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