Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!
I have the joy of bringing to you a conversation I *loved!* engaging in with Susan Spann about her convictingly brilliant Cosy Historical Mystery series: Hiro Hattori! This series has truly touched my heart over the years, as the closer we follow the life and adventures of Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori, the more we become attached to these two men who have forged an incredible friendship together in 16th Century Japan!
What is most incredible in their friendship is how they come from two different cultural & religious worlds – sometimes, those differences seek to draw a wedge between them or act as a fracture of trust or respect; as they do have their moments where they are at odds. However, the beauty of the series is how each of them chooses to decide to ‘find the middle ground’, of keeping their friendship intact despite those differences and of finding personal growth through their relationship as the longer they know each other, the more their individual empathy & understanding grows.
Yesterday, Ms Spann was meant to be the guest for #histficchat (the information on this being rescheduled follows this interview!) wherein, I tried to pitch-hit for her to give the chatters a bit of information about why I love the series & at the heart of it, what truly pulls me back into the chapters of each new installment which is published. Let me share a few of those tweets to give you an idea of why I love talking about this lovely series:
I get so dearly *excited!* whenever the newest installment is about to publish, because I know I can pick up right where I left Father Mateo and Hiro! The layered continuity is one of my favourite bits to the series, as there is an impressive central arc threading throughout the series itself. Each installment is building upon the last, grounding you into the world as it was illuminated in this niche of time and giving us a fuller grasp of what life would have been like for both of these individuals, whilst it intercepts with living history.
As you will find throughout this conversation, I pulled together key insights into the background of the series, trivia about the characters (lead and supporting) and discuss key aspects of Ms Spann’s writing life as well. I loved her responses, as you get a wonderful glimpse into how passionate she is about writing the stories themselves but also, how dear the characters have become to her as well to write their adventures! I also love the hidden insights I hadn’t expected to uncover whilst getting the pleasure of joy of candidly discussing a series I find wicked #unputdownable!
If your a fellow time traveller through History, who appreciates well-conceived Cosy Historical Mysteries with cunning dialogue, lush scenery, brilliant back-histories and a convicting plot threading through each of the mysteries themselves, I think you will enjoy your stay within Ms Spann’s world! The added blessing is she regionally takes us to different places throughout Japan, whilst introducing us to their regional traditions, cultural histories and religious rituals. There is a lot of Japanese lore and legend as well etched into the background which gives you a well-rounded approach to better understand this beautiful country.
Remember, my interviews are best read with your favourite cuppa in hand!
Why I personally love *devouring!* the Hiro Hattori Novels:
Series Overview: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo investigate crime in medieval Japan, from the palaces of the samurai to the colorful world of Kyoto’s theater district—and beyond. The series weaves fictional plotlines through one of the most exciting—and dangerous—times in Japanese history.
Ms Spann has created a series for the historical reader at heart! A bit of a backstory about my ardent admiration for this portal into 16th Century Japan:
I still marvel at how I came to know of the series through the second release Blade of the Samurai whilst being blessed to have read the series from the beginning in Claws of the Cat. Each step along the way my heart has felt pulled into the drama and the suspense behind how the friendship Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori have shaped their lives – there is a lot going on in the series, from a historical perspective and from the world’s point of view of where Ms Spann has alighted us into her lovely 16th Century world. Her world-building is what makes this such a keen series to feel a part of as you nearly take for granted it’s not the 16th Century each time you place yourself in step with her characters!
On where we are right now with Father Mateo & Hiro Hattori:
Atmospheric conditions and climatic nuance are some of my favourite passages in novels as they reassert how fragile we are against mother nature! The intuitiveness of accurately placing us inside a thunderous storm of epic proportions is not easily done – however, when I read this passage, it felt like the conditions were growing in both dimension and severity! It is a brilliant time to have a suspicion of doubt murmuring through this closed community where the lightning and the storm rises the tension, enables the fear to thrive and allows the clues to become shadowed from those seeking them. As the hardest way to sleuth out the truth is when there is no visible reason leading you to suspect anyone of the guilt from the crime which has proposed more questions than it has answered.
Even Father Mateo appears to be properly aghast over this mystery! Not just from the clear differences in religious beliefs but of why the dead in this particular instance are being depicted the way in which they are – almost as if the display of their persons is meant to trigger either a warning to those who find them or insinuate a message no one has yet surmised as being delivered. Hiro for his part is attempting to remain emotionally detached, to focus on the facts (as limited as they seem) and intuit out the rest as he’s able to gather out of his enquiries. Evenso, the foulness of the weather raging outside is impending their progress, almost as a signal all is rather grim far past what they perceive!
I have the tendency to favour Father Mateo’s views on the world as in this instance, his compassionate understanding for the dire necessity for the nuns to walk to this temple was sparked out of sheer will to survive not the mark of women who were attempting to reverse sacred order! The storm itself you would think would be justification enough but after having learnt the ordeal they had survived, surely compassionate sympathy should be an innate response rather than one which needs to be learned? There are moments not just in this series but in life, where you would think people could see past themselves and accept there are circumstances outside of controlled order which lean on being sympathetic to how life does not run according to plan but rather can be altered in an instant?
Ippen stole my heart – without revealling anything, it is becoming a lovely trend throughout the series where certain secondary characters or even more minor characters of influence are touching my heart! In this instance, it is how innocence and the rites of the dead can affect everyone irregardless of age or influence of wealth. We all grieve with mutual anguish and it is how we look after the dead which bespeaks the most to our humanity.
I am wicked happy to lament this story is not predictable even if you know the premise through Dame Christie, Ms Spann has re-envisioned it in such a way to thread enough of a distance from the original to give us a wholly original tale which sparks its own accord for how a spree of killings can become a daunting case to solve! I was on the edge of my seat each step of the way, as despite knowing the blueprint of what was happening (as it is revealled) it didn’t lead me to draw preliminary conclusions – there is an intricacy to her stories and how she crafts her mysteries – the key reason I am drawn inside them as readily as I am – to where, I felt this was a rather sophisticated crime due to the high level of premeditation needed to carry it out!
I oft see readers mentioning you can read this series out of sequence but for me, personally, I do not see how you can have an understanding of the growth of the characters nor the breadth of what the series is eluding to as each installment is a percolator of events yet to be disclosed. The relationship between Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori is duly layered and has thrived due to how each of them has chosen to forge a friendship with someone they never expected to feel a humbled connection too. If you start this series out of sequence, you would be sacrificing the beauty of living through their experiences to gleam the best insight into how the series is lovingly built around these two men!
-quoted from my review of Trial on Mount Koya
On my connection to Susan Spann:
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 a blog tour that I 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 (Blade of the Samurai) blog tour in September 2014! Such serendipity as the tour 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. We have continued to remain in touch although we do not get to ‘meet-up’ on Twitter as often as we once did due to our schedules in recent years.
I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Ms Spann through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst attending #LitChat or in private convos. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author, whether I am reading a book by them for the first time or continuing to read their series in sequence of publication. This also applies to hosting a guest feature by the author I share a connection.
Susan Spann | Fuji Summit, 2018 part of her #100Summits journey
Join me in welcoming, Ms spann
to Jorie Loves A Story for this lovely conversation
about a series which has tucked itself into my bookish heart & given me *six!* wonderfully lovely installments in which to become better acquainted with her dearly compassionate Father Mateo & her pensively reserved Hiro Hattori! Get to know her & her characters, today!