The Mood of The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes

This is the first set of dispatches as I whip The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes into shape ready for its March release. I’ve already heard from all the lovely people involved in putting the prize together that has enabled me to bring this book back to life – Storiad, Crimson River, and Harper Collins. So far, communication has been both timely and incredibly helpful, which has been a very pleasant surprise.

Most exciting, I’ve had the editorial review back from Scott Pack and the senior editor at The Friday Project, and it’s given me huge amounts to think about, so I’m ready to start wrapping my head fully round the rewrites. There are lots of things I hadn’t thought about, which is great but will mean more mulling time. Some will need extra thought because they run counter to my instincts – a focus on realism in regard to some of the facts, which I have always felt would detract from the atmosphere, but may actually enhance what magical realism there is, and cutting a lot of the first person plural, which I instinctively feel is the strongest part but may not be. Other suggestions I find very attractive, such as expanding Shuji’s space. And others still have reinforced decisions I’d reached at about the same time, such as making Dan’s voice much warmer so as to contrast more with Shuji’s.

What’s been occupying most of my time recently though is working on a set of links and images that capture the mood for the book’s trailer and cover. It’s harder to convey what I want than i thought. I know exactly how I want the trailer to feel – dank, industrial, grainy, urban, dripping of despair – but it’s very hard to convey that without making it soud exactly like a horror film.

This is what I’ve come up with – a mix of films, images, and tunes. I hope it gets the feel across – it feels like I’m building a stock or blending a perfume – and if you like the combined feel, I hope that means you’ll be drawn to the book!

This is the groundnote for the whole thing

Tesis is an early film by Alejandro Amenabar who went on to direct the award-winning The Others. The raw, edgy, unglossy, video-oriented nature of this trailer perfectly capture the media-related feel I want to create – way better than other examples I was tempted by (though each of which is picked up in the book) – Ring, Mute Witness, 8mm and Videodrome.

Onto this I have layered the following.

These images by the wonderful Veronika von Volkova (either of which would be a great cover) both pick up the sense of urban isolation I want to get across, windows and dereliction both showing the disconnected underside of technology.


There’s also a basenote of sadness in Veronika’s photography I’ve never seen captured elsewhere as closely as it permeates my work.


The following films all offer something essential

The unnerving graininess of Paranormal Activity

The seminal drip of evil disconnection in the credits of Se7en

and Johnny Boy’s terrifying yet alluring paranoid patter in Mike Leigh’s Naked

Music is always central to how I understand atmosphere, and these track perfectly capture Aggie’s essence

It would be impossible to imagine not including Radiohead, and this is one of their most insistently unnerving as well as driving pieces

Superhand’s Discipline Me adds the perfect amount of disconcerting chic to make us feel uncomfortable watching

The Kills’ No Wow represents the relentless drip of despair

Whilst Portishead’s Macine Gun gives it an urban dystopian twist

But behind everything is a sadness, a wistfulness, almost gentleness that needs not to be lost. On some days I wold have used Faye Wong to represent this, but today feels like a Melanie Pain day.

If Crimson River can pull all that together into something even remotely resembling what’s in my head they’ll be worth the ringingest of endorsements


2 thoughts on “The Mood of The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes

  1. Interesting peek at a different way to do the process – image boards are something I do long before I start writing (since I think in pictures) I usually have the cover, image boards and an uncaptioned trailer finished first to help me set the tone 😉

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