By Toby Young
With the announcement that his first novel The Watchers is set to be adapted into a movie in the summer of 2024, I decided to arrange an interview with A.M. Shine and to take a deep dive into his macabre world.
There is very little out there about Shine’s early years, although we know he was born and raised in the West of Ireland. Shine was brought up on folk-horror and gothic stories, describing his style as “a blend of the contemporary and the classic”.
An avid history fan, Shine achieved a master’s degree in history before turning his gaze to full-time writing. There are clear influences of history and folklore throughout his work.
His webpage describes him as “devoted to everything literary and macabre,” and after reading his work, you’ll realise that “macabre” is somewhat of an understatement. Shine has a brutal disregard for his character’s well-being (as all great horror writers must), and crafts some of the best scares in the genre.
To date, Shine has written two novels; 2021’s The Watchers and 2022’s The Creeper, which I have reviewed previously.
The Watchers: Set in a dark, impenetrable forest deep in Galway, Mina finds herself captive to an unseen, supernatural force which refuses to reveal itself.
Forbidden to leave her glass cage during the night, but equally imprisoned by the dense woodland during the day, Mina and her companions must make a choice; submit to a life of imprisonment and observation, or do what no one has yet managed; escape the Watchers.
The Creeper: When Ben and Chloe accept a research job to record folk stories in the insular, hidden town of Tir Mallacht, they think this will be just another routine investigation. However, upon entering the town, they are soon faced with a legend that is far more than just a story. The Creeper is coming for them.
His first outing, The Watchers, is a unique and claustrophobic tale of imprisonment which touches on themes of isolation, folklore, and fairy tale.
I can’t help but think that the naming of the novel’s protagonist, Mina, is a subtle homage to Mina Harker in Bram Stoker’s masterpiece Dracula. Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part, although Shine himself has said in an interview with Horror DNA, that Stoker was an influence of his. Shine’s background in history is displayed through the ancient nature of the threat, and rumours about their existence in the local area, displaying his knowledge of folklore and superstition.
The Creeper is somewhat more ambitious. Set in a fictional village with a complex and well-developed mystery to flesh out the story, Shine’s second novel is an encouraging development on what is becoming his textbook style; something of a Victorian gothic revival.
Shine has alluded to a third novel in the works, which he describes as “The most ambitious novel I’ve attempted yet.” He has revealed it is set on an island with “dark secrets.” Although scant information is available at this stage, all horror fans should be very excited about this announcement.
In an exciting development, Ishanna Shyamalan (daughter of M. Night) is set to make her film directing debut with an adaptation of Shine’s first novel: The Watchers. Set for its release in June 2024, the script will be both written and directed by Shyamalan, who began her career with the TV show Servant.
Little to no information on casting or location is available at this stage, however, the prospect of seeing Shine’s work on the big screen is both exciting and terrifying. Having read the novel, I’m not sure I’m ready to relive the horrifying experience in film. One thing is for sure though: when I next see a new A.M. Shine book in stores, I won’t even have to think about buying it.
The Mancunion: Both of your novels focus heavily on superstition. What sparked this interest for you?
Shine: For better or worse, there’s no escaping superstitions growing up in the rural west of Ireland. Every odd-shaped rock or woodland seems to have some dark story behind it. So, there’s no choice but to roll with it really and just accept that the world is a terrifying place.
I was always fascinated by horror stories. It was the only genre I ever wanted to write. But I suppose it was studying history at university that lead me back to Irish folklore and its superstitions. There’s so much terror there that hasn’t been tapped yet. And all it takes is a little reimagining to invite it into the 21st century for a whole new readership.
M: Are you at all worried about your first novel being adapted into a film? How protective do you think you’ll be over changes to your plot?
S: I think my excitement has overruled all other emotions, so I’m not worried in the slightest.
Ishana Night Shyamalan’s script is absolutely wonderful. She genuinely has so many ideas that I wish I’d thought of when I was writing The Watchers. And I’ve never thought that such talented people would ever be investing their time in a story that I wrote at my desk in my bedroom. It’s quite dizzying to think about.
I wouldn’t say that I’m all that protective of the source material. I think that novels and movies are two very different experiences. What works on the page might not necessarily translate to the screen and I’d rather filmmakers enjoy the freedom to do what they do best.
M: What have you been reading recently?
S: The last book was Stolen Tongues by Felix Blackwell, and I’ve just started The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.
I’ve sadly finished reading Jonathan Aycliffe’s amazing catalogue of work. I tried to stretch them out for as long as possible, like little literary treats for myself. The man basically perfected the ghost story.
My favourite works of his are Naomi’s Room, The Lost, and The Talisman. And I’d highly encourage any reader of horror to check them out.
M: What’s next for A.M. Shine?
S: At the moment, I’m currently working away on novel number three and am glad to say it’s taking shape quite nicely. Equal parts rewarding and soul-crushing, as per usual.
I’ll be thrilled to be tracking the preparation and production of The Watchers. The casting will be of very special interest to me. I’ve known these characters for years now, and it’ll be strange to stare them in the eye and say “I made you.”
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