Today I’ll tell you about the story, starting with the description, and also sharing the ideas behind it.
The Assistant: A Jessica Warne Spy Novel
How far would you go to get the life you’ve always dreamed of?
High up in Seattle’s most luxurious office tower, a powerful woman conceals a dangerous secret. As the CEO of a prestigious staffing firm, Dana Duke offers exquisitely trained executive assistants to the city’s business elite.
In corporate America, where the winner takes all, talent isn’t enough to guarantee a victory. That’s why Dana offers a unique set of services to her most ambitious clients: corporate espionage, psychological manipulation, and blackmail.
Meet Jessica Warne, a recent college grad determined to succeed on her own terms. Stuck in a dead-end job and drowning in student loan debt, she’s eager to climb the corporate ladder. When Dana offers her a chance at a better life, it seems her troubles might be over. But are they?
Where The Story Came From
The Assistant came to me five years ago in the ordinary way, meaning that I was working on something else at the time. A woman named April showed up in my brain, said she was in trouble, and demanded I write her story down. But I was writing Orientation to Murder at the time, so I told her I’d get around to her story, but she needed to go to the back of the line.
So imagine my surprise when I began writing The Assistant and realized that April was already dead (not a spoiler!) and I was writing about her successor at the same company. The creativity thing gets bizarre at times. I guess I need to write faster? 😉
In the end, my almost-protagonist’s death ended up being one tiny piece of a much larger story. By the time I finished the first draft of The Assistant I knew that it was the first part of a four-book series about a woman ensnared in a world of organized crime. And to write it, I drew on my background in organizational psychology.
Manipulation as a Double-Edged Sword
As a management consultant, it always interested me how businesses manipulate their employees. Manipulation isn’t necessarily evil (we also refer to it as influencing or motivating people), but companies do try to control how people think and behave. And for years, I helped companies do it.
That’s fine when you have moral people at the helm, trying to do good things in the world. But when writing this book I considered how intelligent criminals would run their businesses. How would they control and manipulate others? How would they justify their actions? Who would those businesses serve, and why? And what might that world look like to someone just starting their career? Would they even notice that they were working for one of the bad guys?
It wasn’t at all difficult to imagine workplace psychology being used for nefarious purposes. The tools work just as well for good and evil. And it’s not difficult to see how leaders use concepts like purpose and belonging to convince others to do bad things. You need only check the news to find examples.
The Assistant explores the dark side of corporate America. But beneath the intrigue, personalities, and gadgets of a fictional spy agency, there’s a deeper question I’m scratching at: In a system that rewards us for doing all the wrong things, can we blame the system for the choices we make?
Food for thought! But don’t worry; you can enjoy The Assistant without waxing philosophical on the nature of man. 😉 The fun comes first, and the themes are merely a bonus. So I offer you The Assistant in the spirit of enjoyment, a twisty suspense story to enjoy on a lazy afternoon.
Stay tuned! I’ll have purchase links very soon.