(please note the links in the sidebar to where you can buy my current books :))
Two years ago, I started a project. I wanted to write a book that was unlike anything that had gone before. That was semi-interactive, with story arcs prompted by readers, a world that moved in and out of focus, gained and lost segments as readers and characters decided, zoomed in on those aspects people really wanted to learn about.
There was a flurry of branding during which I opened my blogger and twitter accounts under the Agnieszka’s Shoes name, and started the Facebook group that became the centre for discussions. A community slowly built, chapters got written, questions got asked, and I learned as much about the story from what was happening in the writing process as I did from the content of the interaction.
And so Dan Griffiths’ dual quest – to reinvent the world’s most copied image; and to find a daughter whose image had been universally ignored – emerged, along with the more important quest behind it – to answer the question why some pictures and stories grab the collective consciousness whilst others are ignored. It’s something we ask ourselves all the time as writers.
I don’t think I’ve answered the question in the book that has emerged. I don’t think that would have been right. I hope I’ve asked lots of the right questions, though. And I hope I’ve created characters and situations that connect in some way with all of us on an emotional as well as an intellectual level.
This isn’t a “story” as such, for all it is structured more conventionally than anything I’ve ever written before – it features not one but two classically constructed quests. Characters enter and leave, some have their own stories that are resolved, others do so leaving traces of questions and no answers. Rather like life. But this isn’t a philosophical book – for all it casts its gaze over the meaning of many of the elements that make up (post)modern life – art, the internet, loss, memory, love, beauty, and most of all numbness. If it is any one thing, it’s an emotional scrapbook, in which some of the cut-out pieces are ripped from our own lives.
My sincerest thanks to everyone who was part of that original group, for your support and your inspiration, and for the directions you sent me in – in particular thank you for the prominence you wanted me to accord Shuji – he’s turned into a character I am very fond of. A special mention has to go to three people. First, the wonderful Penny Goring. It was, if I remember rightly, this rather bonkers idea that first brought me into contact with Penny, and as I prepare to publish her debut collection I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for that. Second, I want to say thank you for her encouragement to the amazing Jessica Brown, one of the most creative people and fertile imaginations I know, whom I met through the group and who has gone on to run the incredible Defiled Curator site. But most of all a huge huge thank you to Tony Malone (whose great Reading List blog you’ll see in my blogroll) for kicking me up the backside consistently for two years every time I thought it would be easier to stop one chapter before the end. The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes is dedicated to him.
Over the next 3 days, I will post the first three chapters from the book, and then, on Saturday, I will post the buy link – it will be $0.99/£0.70 like my other books. I hope you enjoy reading it. I can honestly say of everything I’ve ever written, it’s the thing about which I have most doubts, but the thing of which I’m proudest – which is exactly as it should be for a book like this.
The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes
Why are there some images we just can’t look away from, whilst others fade without us ever noticing they were there?
When mysterious Polish woman Agnieszka Iwanowa's tragi-comic death in a gym accident is uploaded to YouTube, the film's final image of her upturned trainers is rehashed by everyone from right wing extremists to a reclusive installation artist who only speaks through his dominatrix PA.Now Dan Griffiths has to make the image fresh.
The search for Agnieszka's secret slowly overtakes Dan’s search for his own daughter, missing for ten years, ignored by the media, and now sending him - and the reader - glimpses of messages from what seems like another world.Dan’s journey sucks him into the worlds of political extremism; BDSM; a haiku-composing graffiti artist; an online community devoted to the dead girl, and its reclusive Japanese schoolboy moderator who has just paid half a million dollars for the diary of a scientist whose work he believes will enable him to bring Agnieszka back from the dead.
This is a story about a world gone numb, a world in which pain is the only thing that's real