I’m very pleased to be hosting Michael J. Sahno on Linda’s Book Bag today as I was interested in why Michael has chosen an insurance company setting for his latest novel Miles of Files. Luckily Michael agreed to write a guest post to explain. Miles of Files is available for purchase in e-book and paperback on your local Amazon site.
Miles of Files
In Miles of Files, the main character, Paul Panepinto, an employee at Flambet Insurance, learns that his manager Graham Woodcock is stealing from the company. Paul struggles with whether or not to report the boss at the risk of losing his position.
Eventually, Graham fires Paul anyway and Paul is forced to pursue justice, but the story doesn’t end as expected.
Readers move through a fast-paced adventure with many twists and turns, including high points, drama, comedy, and an edge that Sahno captures through his writing.
Why An Insurance Company?
A Guest Post by Michael J. Sahno
Recently, I was asked why I chose the world of insurance as my setting for my third novel. Did I want to surprise readers? Did I feel it was a microcosm of society in general? Or did I have a personal experience I wanted to use?
It’s an interesting way of looking at a book: why would you put your protagonist in a job that looks incredibly boring, working in an industry that most people probably don’t really want to read about?
I had to admit I was somewhat taken aback. I had barely considered it. In fact, my own work experience over about a twenty-year period had barely touched on the insurance industry, falling more into the mortgage industry and market research. Upon reflection, however, I recalled just how I put the setting into motion: having worked in stressful, tedious settings, I wanted to convey the experience – and also show that there’s plenty of drama there below the surface – without being blatantly autobiographical. Thus was born Flambet Insurance, which the main character thinks of as “an insane asylum, a place where even the most well-adjusted among them ate antacids like candies and ran from task to task taking desperate sips of coffee from Styrofoam cups.”
Of course, there were major considerations far beyond that of the setting or the jobs the characters held. In my first novel, Brothers’ Hand, I began with no plan, no outline, and no character sketches…just scenes that unfolded naturally. It was a very organic process. I used the first-person point of view for my second novel, Jana, as the main character speaks to the reader directly.
For Miles of Files, I wanted to paint with a broader palette, and I actually had a few things in mind. For one, I wanted to have tiers of characters like Charles Dickens did in Dombey and Son: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The tertiary characters are mainly commentators, who pass on information about primary and/or secondary characters. I wanted to make sure each character was unique and different enough from the others that the reader could easily identify them, so I went through the Myers-Briggs personality types and assigned them accordingly. It was kind of fun, and it also enabled me to really differentiate each character from the next.
The thing that became of great interest as I moved forward in the narrative was the fact that I was actually writing my first crime novel. I always find the research portion of novel writing to be quite interesting, even though it’s not necessarily fun to do. You need to know a lot more than your reader does, so if you’re writing about an unfamiliar industry, you’d better get it right!
In the book, the main character, Paul, finds out his boss, Graham, is stealing from the company retirement plan, but not in a traditional embezzlement: he’s actually created these fake employee files, complete with nonexistent social security numbers, to make it look like he’s paying out benefits to former employees. On top of that, Graham also sets up a “blackout” period during which employees cannot monitor their 401(k) plan…thus enabling Graham to not only steal a lot of money from the owner but also to steal a little bit of money from each employee. It’s (evil) genius.
Working on the forensic computer analysis aspect of this, along with the law enforcement angle, was like going down the rabbit hole. I was surprised by some of what I learned, and the reader will be too. It’s probably considered literary fiction by most, but I certainly think people will find the narrative a compelling one as well.
About Michael J. Sahno
Michael J. Sahno was born in Bristol, CT. He earned his Bachelor’s from Lynchburg College and his Master’s in English from Binghamton University. Sahno has been a professional writer since 2001. His novels cater to an imaginative audience, particularly those who enjoy literary fiction with a twist of drama and plenty of humor. Sahno is a member of the Florida Writers Association and American Library Association, and the founder of Tampa Literary Authors.