Meet the Author: Susan Spann & BLADE OF THE SAMURAI

Posted by on Aug 6, 2014 in Author Interviews, Blog | 11 comments

I’m very excited to welcome author Susan Spann, a friend, colleague, and super cool chick to Between  the Sheets today. In fact, I’m so excited about it, I’m giving away ANOTHER copy of her latest novel BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, book two in her ninja mystery series. Just leave a comment here on the blog, tweet this post, or Facebook it (be sure to tag me so I see it!) and your name goes into the pot.



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.


Claws of the Cat highlighted the culture of Japanese tea houses. Do you focus on a particular cultural aspect in BLADE as well? And is this your plan for subsequent books?

I do! Blade of the Samurai involves a murder within the walls of the shogun’s palace, and the third Shinobi Mystery, Flask of the Drunken Master, sends Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the world of the brewers’ guild. Medieval Japanese culture had so many different facets and intricate details that it offers a nearly infinite range of exotic experiences—especially for Western readers who might not know much about samurai culture aside from the popular image of “ponytailed dudes with swords.” My goal with the Shinobi Mysteries is to explore those intriguing cultural settings, one book (and at least one murder) at a time.


If you could choose to walk in Hiro’s or Father Mateo’s shoes, whose would you choose and why?

Both? I love Hiro’s pragmatism, and who wouldn’t want to have his ninja skills? On the other hand, Father Mateo takes great joy and satisfaction from helping people in need. That’s a noble calling, and one that’s also close to my heart. If I had to choose, I’d probably go with Hiro…but I’d be torn.


What is the most satisfying piece to having a new book released into the world? 

The joy of sharing the story with other people. I love Christmas, mostly because I adore giving people presents and surprises. Releasing each new book is like giving a great “surprise” – because I already know whodunit, and I love hearing readers’ reactions to the way the stories unfold. This is partly due to the fact that each new novel reveals something more about Hiro’s past, which is mostly a mystery to the readers at this point. With each new novel, I get to give the readers another piece of that puzzle.


Which actors would you select to play your characters’ roles? Also, can’t you just see your series as a video game?


I’d love to see the series as a video game, or a graphic novel. I write from a very visual place, so the images and colors of gaming and comics are close to my heart.

I can imagine a number of actors in the starring roles, but the casting choice that sticks in my head is actually a secondary character who makes his series debut in Blade of the Samurai. Matsunaga Hisahide was a real Japanese daimyo (a samurai warlord) who I fictionalized as a character in my series. He shows up in Blade of the Samurai as an emissary from one of the shogun’s allies. Readers versed in Japanese history know that Hisahide plays a very large role in Japanese history—and he has a substantial role in the series too.

From the moment I knew I’d be writing Matsunaga-san into the series, I envisioned Ken Watanabe (who starred with Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, and with Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception) in the role. Historically, it’s a demanding role that walks the line between hero and villain—and I think Ken Watanabe could play it spectacularly.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Never give up, and never stop writing. It took me ten years and 5 completed manuscripts to land an agent and a publishing deal. Too many authors give up in frustration, or stop moving forward, if the first manuscript doesn’t get an agent or hit it big. Writers need a tortoise’s patience and the skin of a rhino. Learn to take real critique, improve your writing with every book, and never, ever, let rejection deprive you of your dream.




Best Place on Earth: Home.

Hidden Talent: Singing. I trained in classical (opera) and musical theater for over a decade, though I rarely use it now except in the shower and around the house.

Favorite Vice: Coffee is a virtue, so the vice must be ice cream. Coffee ice cream…

Most delectable meal ever: Thai fresh rolls, deep fried tofu with peanut sauce, spicy coconut soup, massaman curry (with chicken and shrimp), and the aforementioned ice cream for dessert. MMMMMMM.

Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. Also? We need to get some thai food now.








Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Paul Toth

    Great interview! Though I don’t read a lot of whodunits, the combination of exotic setting, medieval setting, and court intrigue promises a rich tale that breaks the Professor Plum-with-the-revolver-in-the-study mold. As a fan of Lian Hearn (I’ve read his entire Tales of the Otori series multiple times) I can speak to the wonderful degree of immersion this sort of milieu can evoke. I’ll most certainly be checking out Susan’s work.

    I was also inspired by the “most delectable meal ever” quote. Thai food for lunch!

    • Heather Webb

      As you suspected, Paul, this isn’t your classic whodunit in that there’s nothing else to grab on to. I adore Susan’s deft way of weaving culture and history into the narrative without bogging down the pace. That’s exceedingly difficult to do well. Plus, a ninja? I mean, come on. Love the badassery of it. Thanks for stopping by today!

    • Susan Spann

      Thank you Paul! I hope, if you do pick the novels up, that you enjoy them!

  2. Laura VanArendonk Baugh

    Wow, now I can see it as a comic or graphic novel, too. And that sounds really fun.

    I think a different cultural venue for each book is brilliant. It’s like a guided murder tour!

    • Heather Webb

      Ooo, guided murder tour. I like that idea. Sounds fun. Well, only if it’s the Masterpiece Theater version. lol

  3. Kristina Makansi

    I can’t wait to read this one.

  4. Cyn209

    a new-to-me series!!!!
    I need to read this!!

    thank you for the giveaway!!!!

  5. Susan Spann

    Thank you so much for hosting me today, Heather – and for letting me share a little about the books!

  6. Denise Duvall

    I think these books would make a very plush and exotic movie setting. This is a book series, that I definitely have to check out. I have not read any other mysteries with a Far Eastern historical setting, except for Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu mysteries. Heather, your new book about Rodin also looks interesting.
    I tweeted, 8:03 PM – 6 Aug 2014@DeniseDuvall2 and liked it on Facebook and pinned it.

    • Heather Webb

      Thanks, Denise! I appreciate the Twittering AND your kind words about my new book. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it. As for exotic settings, that’s one of the coolest things about Susan Spann’s series. I love all the learning you do without noticing.

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