+Author Q&A+ A quick but hearty conversation with Susan Spann on her profound love of Japan, writing, classic motion pictures, & seahorses! Yes, seahorses!

Posted Thursday, 21 August, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , , , 4 Comments

Parajunkee Designs

with Susan Spann,

Susan Spann

an author whose mystery series has plans

to expand inside 18 stories

& there is room for more!

On my connection to Ms. Spann and why I am most delighted to host her:

I started visiting the chats hosted by @LitChat in the latter months of 2013, as it was around the time of the conference at The Betsy in which I started to cross paths with regular chatters, amongst whom were Natalia Sylvester (début novelist of “Chasing the Sun”) and Susan Spann. I am unsure which month I first started to notice Ms. Spann as a friendly presence who always reminded me of myself — someone who provided cheerful commentary, engaging questions for each visiting guest author, and a wicked knowledge base on a variety of topics. Generally speaking, I always click-over to read a person’s Twitter profile, but whilst engaged in those #LitChat(s) I felt like it was this magical rendezvous for the bookish and those who are attuned to bookish culture.

In this way, it wasn’t until I learnt of Blade of the Samurai was going on tour through TLC Book Tours (the touring company I am hosting for this Interview & my forthcoming book review) I had decided to discover a bit more about her! In so doing, I learnt who she was ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak! I always considered her one of my ‘friends in the twitterverse’ but I never disclosed this to her until I was on the blog tour! Such serendipity as the tour has brought us a bit closer and I am grateful that Twitter is a social-positive method of reaching past our distances in geography to connect to people who share a passion for the written word.

I felt as though this beautiful circle had tenfold returned to the path I had started to walk last year, as what is a better blessing than to host the work of an author you’ve felt blessed to know through bookish chats!?

*As an aside, as I was composing this I noticed Twitter lit up with a new notification: Ms. Sylvester was re-tweeting my note about this upcoming interview! And, whilst I was fetching the links for LitChat, I noted that the author of one of my most beloved books to have read in 2013 is going to be the guest author next week! You’ll have to follow the link to see ‘who’ as I am now motivated to return back to those chats, as my schedule and time have simply not aligned to where I could participate this Summer; a personal regret.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Spann through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst attending #LitChat; I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time. As much as I can host an Interview by the author and bring a non-bias series of questions to my readers.

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Book Synopsis:

Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

June, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the shogun’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor. . .

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time . . . or die in his place.

Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in sixteenth-century Japan.

Author Biography:

Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her début novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

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How does a modern writer become intricately attached to 16th Century Japan? And, did your passionate pursuits of studying Asian culture, tradition, martial arts, and cuisine lend a curiosity towards this one particular era over others you could have chosen? I know you previously credited a dedicated interest stemming from your 7th grade studies, but I was wondering what anchored you to Japan since then.

Spann responds: I think the biggest attraction, for me, was the intricacy and pageantry of medieval Japanese culture. I’m an enormous fan of the “unusual and different” in all its forms, and for a person raised just west of Los Angeles during the 1970’s, medieval Japan is about as unusual and as different as it gets.

I’ve always been drawn to medieval studies in particular, in part because of the emphasis that era placed on duty and personal honor. My love for martial arts definitely plays a role, too. Samurai and ninjas (shinobi, in Japanese) were always fascinating to me, and when I reached college and realized how fascinating they were “up close” – as opposed to what I’d seen in films – I was absolutely hooked.

I can well imagine your thoughts on how uniquely diverse Japan would appear to you, being hugged so close to Los Angeles! We’re close in age then, which I had not realised until now! Yes, I admit, the Medieval eras in history have always shined a light inside my own heart, as there is simply something about that particular empathsis on duty, honour, and of course the protection of land and family. I have the tendency to lean more towards knowing of that time through British & European history within historical fiction offerings, but part of the appeal for me with your series was to break out of that familiar spot of reference and learn more about a country I grew up knowing through music, art, culture, and tradition. I have a strong passion for martial arts myself, although from the country next door to Japan! I fell in love with Tai Chi Chaun, and it is far more intricate of a martial art than people causally believe as they only go by what they observe in parks! I always felt the martial arts are part defense, part art, and part dance. It is as difficult to describe the allure to watching a martial artists and/or for wanting to learn the craft of one as it were to explain in words how one feels after seeing a horse perform Dressage.

You once revealed in an interview your passion for both modern and classic motion pictures: we both have a shared joy in seeing Cary Grant on screen! What are some of your favourite classic noir, suspense, crime drama, or mystery motion pictures? And, what do you think is missing from modern cinema from the classically told originals?

Spann responds: GASLIGHT and CASABLANCA are high on my list, as are the THIN MAN films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. If we’re talking comedies, I absolutely adore MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (hello, Cary Grant!) – I like it better than most modern comedies, and watch it every time I have the chance.

One of my all-time favorites is a film most people (well, the ones alive now at least) haven’t seen: RANDOM HARVEST, starring Greer Garson and Ronald Colman. It’s the story of a man who gets amnesia, the wife who loves him, and the way love has a way of making right what life makes wrong. Beyond that, you need to see it for yourself.

I think the thing I miss the most in modern films (though I love those, too) is the strength and intelligence of the writing. Classic films had to convey much more through dialogue and inference, due to the lack of special effects and elaborate modern budgets. There’s a sharpness to classic screenplays that’s too often missing now.

I simply could not resist asking you this particular question, as it is not too often I find someone who is as wrapped up in classic movies as much as I am! I think if I could tune out regular channels, my remote would never move off of Turner Classic! Laughs with mirth. I wanted to watch more each year as I became quite interested in TCM’s offerings around five years ago or thereabouts. I started to notice their monthly spotlighted actors & actresses, which was a tipping point, but then, Halloween came around and purposely staid up past my due! Laughs again. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing “Gaslight” one Halloween and “The Haunting” another year! I had already fallen for the grace and convicting confidence of Ingrid Bergman, but in “Gaslight” she truly shined in a way I had not yet seen. Being able to watch the début of Angela Lansbury was a personal triumphant as I grew up on “Murder, She Wrote” (thus, one of the reasons I love cosies!)

I cannot remember which birthday in my 30s I earmarked to watch the ENTIRE treasure trove of Thin Man movies, but I was ever so blessed to have found all of them on dvd through my local library catalogue! I know I’ve mentioned them on my blog previously, but to route it directly now is unfortunate as I do not believe I added the film to that category! Oy. The brilliance of their chemistry (Loy & Powell) is kismet as is the bang-on brilliance of their comedic timing! I also watched the documentary which features both of their rising careers and how interconnected they were in film. I cannot wait one day to buy the boxed set of the Thin Man series on dvd for my own media library!

“Random Harvest” is currently being fetched at my local library as it is the film Mum was able to see without me earlier this year, and the very film she had wished I could have watched with her! Always the way, eh? I cannot wait to experience the story, as I loved her recapture of its heart when she spoke to me afterwards! And, oh my dear ghouls, who hasn’t seen Mr. Blandings? I can see I’ll have to continue this conversation after today, as wow, do we love the same ones or what?! I have not yet seen Casablanca unfortunately, but I did like Bogart in the original version of “Sabrina” which surprised me as I was not expecting to like him. I saw him in one other film, now it might have been “The Maltese Falcon” or another, but I found I liked him best as ‘a younger actor’. As strange as that sounds, it is true. The remake of “Sabrina” is one of my favourites with Harrison Ford as a romantic lead.

I completely concur with your statement about the differences between modern cinema and classical cinema — which is why I am highly selective about which new releases I watch and which I simply bypass altogether! In fact, if anyone thinks I’m a highly selective reader they might be surprised that I am moreso as a film watcher! That being said, I had forgotten to ask you: did you ever get to attend the TCM Classic Film Festival? It is a dream of mine to go one year, even though I think I might not be able to handle the air quality of Los Angeles.

As you already have the third novel in the Shinobi mystery series (Flask of the Drunken Master) slated for Summer 2015, with the fourth (Blood of the Outcast *working title) to follow next, do you already know how many novels will encompass the series as a whole? Did you originally envision it as an extended series or did your readers encourage your muse to continue?

Spann responds: I’ve always seen the Shinobi Mysteries as an extended series, with the unfolding events of Japanese history and the developing friendship of Hiro and Father Mateo as backdrops to the individual mystery stories. I also love the chance that a series gives me to explore the various facets of medieval Japanese society—the world of the geisha in Claws of the Cat, the shogun’s palace in Blade of the Samurai, and the brewers’ and moneylenders’ culture in 2015’s Flask of the Drunken Master.

At the moment, my series outline runs 18 books, and could get even longer. The final novel will let readers know exactly who hired Hiro to keep Father Mateo alive—and why, and how that answer relates to Japanese history as a whole. Until then, I’ll have great fun letting them solve other mysteries along the way.

I must confess at the time of this Interview, I have not yet broached inside your novels, as my plate has been so full lately personally, that I have fallen behind on my readings! That being said, what I think I will appreciate the most about your series is the length you have taken to project such a realism of rooted history within the series itself! I love how each novel expands on the Japanese historical time-line as much as it gives us a heightened edge towards learning more of what we may never have learnt before or known about to look up for ourselves. I love reading historical fiction and I even tweeted earlier about why I love it as much as I do! It is simply that it is a bridge towards knowledge, a way of understanding history in a way that not only alights through our imagination but is evoked through the words a writer conveys on the printed page in such a way as to draw in our heart.

See!? This is what I love about series — there is such a breadth of story and lives of the characters to absorb into that each book is a stepping stone into their internal world as much as their external locale of living. I could not be happier to hear this news! I am generally attracted to ‘long’ series as they tend to be a particular focal point in my reading adventures. I simply have not had enough hours to broach which series I read as I am still such a newbie to book blogging if you equate out how many authors & books I want to eventually feature here! The one that comes to mind in the cosy arm of mysteries is the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton of which I am still within the first five novels!

What was the impetus which gravitated you into writing? And, when did this occur? Who was your best cheerleader?

Spann responds: I started “writing books” in kindergarten—though at the time, that really consisted mostly of copying pages from books I loved and drawing my own illustrations. I’ve loved telling stories for as long as I can remember.

In ninth grade, my English teacher (hello, Ms. Teare!) gave us a short story assignment. Mine became a 35,000-word novel about a wizard’s daughter who grows up without any magical powers, but must save her world from the grip of an evil sorcerer who wants to murder all the other wizards. Pretty much Generic_Fantasy_101 – but it primed the pump, so to speak, and I’ve been writing fiction ever since.

My jump to mystery took place in 2011, when I had the inspiration for the novel that became Claws of the Cat, and a series about a ninja who solves murders instead of committing them.

As far as my biggest cheerleader—that’s a three-way tie between my mother (who’s cheered the longest), my 19 year-old son (who cheers the loudest) and my husband (who cheers me up as well as cheering me on).

Yes, I suppose I could claim the same on behalf of my own ‘beginning’ as a writer, as I was introduced to the computer programme “Once Upon A Time” by my grandfather; I was quite young and in the early bits of elementary school. I fiddled around with writing through class assignments, where in 6th grade my English teacher noticed and said I had the makings of a writer. I simply had to find my voice. My revelation was not in 9th grade (although it is when I began my first manuscript) but in 10th grade as I learnt I wanted to not only write novels (as previously I realised in 9th) but I wanted to explore poetry as well. Where would we be without attentive teachers who were graciously aware that there was more to learning than what was in the curriculum? 

I love how you twisted the arc of a ninja’s most well-known motivational reason of being who they are and gave your ninja a different reason for existing! I love when characters can be bent against what is known and re-invented a bit along the lines of prospective alternative careers and/or making choices that go against known tradition. Ahh, and we have a bit in common as far as who are cheerleaders are in life! My family has always supported my creative endeavours and helped me discover my niche in the creative arts. I am not yet married, nor am I yet a Mum, but I have a feeling I will one day have the same cheerleaders to inspire me onwards too!

Outside the realm of writing and research, what enriches your spirit the most? Where do you find your serenity?

Spann responds: This is the point where I get to share my seahorses. I have a 60-gallon salt-water reef that sits beside my writing desk. It’s home to a pair of seahorses, a pipefish, and a host of other aquatic creatures and corals. It’s a lovely, peaceful environment to work in (and to watch) and it keeps me relaxed and happy while I’m writing.

Photograph of Susan Spann's seahorses provided by Susan Spann
Photo Credit: Seahorses of author Susan Spann, taken by Susan Spann of the occupants of her aquarium

I also love reading, my cats, and gardening, but it’s the seahorse reef that’s truly my “happy place.”

Of course, I am including your beautiful seahorses in this Interview! I noted you were thinking I might omit it, but who would omit such a beautiful personal photograph!? I was always fascinated by seahorses as a child, and I loved their entire love story — as to me, the way in which they mate felt and read like a ‘love story’ and who doesn’t want to celebrate one as joyous and special as the seahorse!? I can see how they give you solace! I always felt having a salt-water tank would be most keen and ideal as a writer! Until then, I am happily surrounded by the presence of a cat! Cats can cheekily inspire you too, but it is their aloof nature that always has me full of smirking laughter! Thank you for giving me such a wicked awesome photograph to present to my readers!

Thank you so much for hosting me, I’ve really enjoyed the interview!

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Author Connections:

Official Author Websites: Site | @SusanSpann | Blog

Converse via: #ShinobiMystery OR #BladeOfTheSamurai

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I want to thank Ms. Spann for gracing me with such a wonderful Author Q&A as she is quite happily absorbed into promotion for her second novel! I was ever so thankful to be blessed to host her today and especially happy I could learn more about someone I have known virtually through the twitterverse! It is always a nice moment to get to know someone a bit better that you’ve enjoyed chatting with in a medium of open exchange of ideas and commentary on writing, reading, books, and the publishing industry as a whole. I highly recommend anyone who regularly reads my blog to check out the folder I have on my Twitter account for “Weekly Bookish Chats” as it is a landing hub for the chats I like to attend, however, if you ever are curious about the other ones I might not have listed there, simply tweet me and I’ll let you know which tag to ‘meet-up with other like-minded souls’.

I am going to be featuring my book review for “Blade of the Samurai” lateron today, and most likely in the evening hours as I am working my way through “Claws” in order to end up inside “Blade”! I have a personal preference for reading serial fiction in order, and very rarely do I break this as I like to understand where the characters orientated as much as where the story began! I look forward to watching your conversations in the comment threads and I appreciate your interest for dropping by!

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This blog tour stop was courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

TLC Book Tours | Tour Host

click-through to follow the blogosphere tour.

Lateron today, I will be sharing my book review for “Blade of the Samurai”!

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See what I am hosting next:

Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva

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Similar to blog tours, when I feature a showcase for an author via a Guest Post, Q&A, Interview, etc., I do not receive compensation for featuring supplemental content on my blog.

Comments make me smile! Let’s start a conversation! I appreciate your visit & look forward to your return! I do moderate the comment threads; do not worry if the comment is delayed in being seen! Drop back soon!

Reader Interactive Question:

What do you find a tenfold blessing in your own life? And, have you read either “Claws of the Cat” or “Blade of the Samurai”? What inspires you to dig into historical fiction that jettisons you off into a slice of history rarely visited by other contemporary writers!? What attracts you to stories about Japan and the people who have such a profound depth of culture, tradition, and history? (visit my review of “How Much Do You Love Me?” to read about my own passion for Japanese culture)

{SOURCES: Cover art of “Blade of the Samurai” as well as the picture of the seahorses were provided by the author Susan Spann and used with permission. The author photograph, book synopsis and the tour badge were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 21 August, 2014 by jorielov in #LitChat, 16th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Bookish Discussions, Bout of Books, Crime Fiction, Equality In Literature, Historical Fiction, Japan, Japanese Fiction, Psychological Suspense, TLC Book Tours, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event

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4 responses to “+Author Q&A+ A quick but hearty conversation with Susan Spann on her profound love of Japan, writing, classic motion pictures, & seahorses! Yes, seahorses!

  1. Thank you for this wonderful interview with Susan Spann. She is one of the most generous writers with her time and expertise in creative law topics and author advocacy. We miss you in #LitChat and hope you can stop in again soon–especially for Helene Wecker.

    You might be delighted to know that we are under talks with the generous people at The Betsy to host another literary event there (and over Twitter) during October 2015. More on that later!

    • *waves hallo!*

      Ms. Bass I was overjoyed seeing that you had stopped by last week to see the interview I had given with Susan Spann!! I was simply overjoyed to connect the writing to the writer I had such a wonderful pleasure of meeting through #LitChat! As you know, I *adore!* the whole purpose of #LitChat (of drawing together writers & readers through an open discussion of literature), and on occasion I have had the pleasure of carrying forward the joy I’ve had inside the chats onto my blog by hosting the author! It felt very seditiousness how the tour came about seeing your comment simply warmed my heart! :)

      I posted my book review for Claws of the Cat lateron that night, and I’m posting my thoughts on Blade of the Samurai tonight as well! I was meant to hug my review of Blade closer to Claws, but the hours dissolved too quickly, and I honestly needed a bit of rest! The true beauty of #LitChat is how close the world of books and everyone involved with the industry are brought together through open discussion and the joy of sharing a combined passion for reading. I agree with you on the genorsity of Ms. Spann and I am extremely delighted to hear about another ‘Betsy’ experience forthcoming in the future! I will be on my keyboard apt & ready for what comes next! :) :)

      I am overjoyed with a fever of excitement today for the pleasure of chatting with Ms. Wecker! Simply one of my favourite reads of 2013!! I have regretted I have staid away so long from the chats; Spring & Summer this year were a bit of a difficult juggle (time wise) but as I started to head into Autumn, I’ll be coming back more regularly from now on! I’ve missed you, too!

    • Hallo, Hallo Ms. Sylvester,

      Yes, I am finding the twitterverse to be such a warm and engaging place to interact with fellow writers, that the paths we all find ourselves placed as we meet each other, has a way of winding around to mutual acquaintances and friends! It is a beautiful collective group of creatives, that is for certain! I am so thankful you stopped by!

      Yes, she is blessedly prolific! :) I was in awe myself and happily encouraged to know the series goes forward for such delish reading!

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