with 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.
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.
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.
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.