Manna Francis is the author the Administration Series, which I started reading on the recommendation of Kris from Kris 'n' Good Books. These are some of my favorite books of the year--they take place in an alternate world (governed by the Administration) and focus on the relationship between Val Toreth, a government investigator, and Keir Warrick, a corporate developer. I was thrilled when Francis agreed to an interview to answer some of my questions about the series!
Heidenkind: You say in your GoodReads profile that you identify as an "original slash" fiction author. For people not familiar with slash fiction, yaoi, etc., can you explain what you mean?
Manna Francis: Slash fan fiction is fan fiction which features a sexual/romantic relationship between two same sex characters. It's a genre that's primarily written by and for women, and it generally has a different and distinctive style to m/m fiction written by and for men. Rather like porn, it's hard to explain but 'I know it when I see it'.
So for me, the original slash label was something of a marker for slash fanfic readers that this could be something that they'd like to try. I first put the Adminstration series online in 2002, when the original m/m fiction scene wasn't anything like as large as it's become today.
H: Would you call the Administration a dystopian world? Is there a specific event in the history of the Administration that diverted it from our own?
MF: Well, it certainly isn't a utopia! It's described as a dystopia in a couple of places on the website. I like dystopia as a description, because it packs in a lot of tropes for the reader to expect.
I've never been specific about when the Administration world diverged from the real world, as it's something I haven't yet fixed in a story. I wouldn't like to speculate about it, lest I narrow my options for future stories.
H: Why is Warrick so obsessed with creating an artificial world that feels real?
MF: I think that kind of obsessive approach is in his nature. The ultimate evolution of the Sim would be something in which there would be no way to tell if it was real or not, so that's the goal he sets himself. Whatever he ended up doing with his life, he'd approach it in the same way as he does the Sim. When he was working on Administration security systems, he had the same dedication, and that's one of the things that caught Carnac's eye. If he'd become, say, a chef, he'd be an Administration Heston Blumenthal, engineering every dish to absolute perfection.
If guess that if you wanted to, you could make a connection between his growing up in an essentially artificial family and his desire to create a perfect world under his control. Or something along those lines. I don't generally go down that path with characters, though, as I don't find it helpful in writing them.
H: Do Sara and Warrick feel morally superior to Toreth?
MF: Morally superior in the sense of feeling that they actually have morals, or morally superior because he's a Para and they aren't?
I think they both feel that he's missing something that they have.
Sara doesn't see anything wrong with being a Para. Warrick never makes any secret out of his distaste for I&I. On the other hand, he's happy to take advantage of his corporate perks, and happy to see Toreth, so I don't think that he'd want to give any lectures on his moral superiority within the Administration. Not that Toreth would care if he did.
H: In several of the books, people accuse Toreth of being psychotic. Do you think he is?
MF: They accuse him of being a sociopath, which isn't the same thing. He has a very firm grasp on reality.
This is something I get asked a lot about Toreth, and I always say the same thing -- read the books, and make up your own mind about it. I think it's the kind of topic about which it's very unproductive for an author to shove in her two penn'orth. Certainly, no one has ever changed their opinion of Toreth's mental state because of what I said about it.
(The other question I never answer is 'does Toreth love Warrick?'. Because, really, where's the fun in giving people a flat yes or no about that?)
H: You make a lot of classical references in the books, especially in Quis Custodiet. Are you drawing from classical literature for your novels? Is the story of Toreth and Warrick's relationship going to follow the format of a Greek tragedy or comedy?
MF: No, and no. I really just liked the title.
Bonus question: Would Toreth ever be able to handle owning a pet?
MF: Ha! I can't imagine how he'd get it in the first place. It would have to be a very robust pet that could handle total neglect. The closest thing I could imagine would be maybe a wild rat living in his kitchen--where at least it would be able to find plenty to eat.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Manna!
To find out more about Manna Francis' novels, please check out her website at http://www.mannazone.org/, or go to her GoodReads Author profile page.