Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Claws of the Cat

From reading Susan Spann’s short biography, I’d be willing to bet that she’s confidentially a superhero. Regardless of any possible secret identities, she brings her heroic expertise to Chiseled in Rock monthly and her first publication with Minotaur Books Press just released.

A little about her...

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series, featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest.
When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, online gaming, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her highly distracting marine aquarium. She still consumes books – almost as avidly as spicy Thai dinners. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.

CIR: First, let’s talk about your release. By the way, Shinobi sounds like Obi Wan Kenobi, so I already like it. And you’re a Star Wars fan as am I, so we’re off to a smashing start. Claws of the Cat, the first of the Shinobi Mystery series is about a ninja detective? Weren’t the ninja assassins?
SS: Indeed they were – assassins, spies, secret agents – and also medieval forensics specialists, which makes Hiro Hattori a perfect (if initially unwilling) detective. When a samurai is murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, Hiro has just three days to find the killer before the dead man’s vengeful son executes both the beautiful geisha accused of the crime and Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit that Hiro has pledged his own life to protect. The subsequent books in the series continue Hiro and Father Mateo’s adventures - because catching murderers is like eating potato chips – nobody stops with one.

CIR: Are you a disciple of the George Lucas school of storytelling—which is actually, to my understanding, the Joseph Campbell method (I.E. protagonist is reluctant to become the hero, but a turn of events causes him or her to reconsider then succumb to the mentor’s advice…and there’s a big trial in the end for great climactic value)?
SS: Short answer: yes.

Long answer: there’s no way a “real” ninja (shinobi, in the traditional Japanese pronunciation) would risk his cover to solve another man’s crime. To make Hiro real, and believable, I needed to force his hand. That said, once he’s involved he quickly learns that his ninja skills make him a highly qualified sleuth. And yes – the ending includes a surprise.
CIR: I’ve known several attorneys, martial arts masters, and cultural experts, but seahorse owner…I got admit that’s a first. How did you get into that?

SS: I’ve loved seahorses ever since seeing them living “in the wild” under my great-grandmother’s boat dock (I was six, and they made an indelible first impression). I lay on my stomach on the dock and leaned over the side to watch them for hours. (Note: in the wild, seahorses are masters of camouflage and they don’t move much. Hence the hours of watching…)
In December of 2011 I had the wild idea to buy a marine aquarium and set up a seahorse tank. “Aquarium,” incidentally, is Latin for “box of rocks that you pour water, money, and all of your free time into.”

CIR: What kind of martial arts do you practice?
SS: Lately I’ve been working on my black belt in Procrastina-do. In the past, however, I’ve studied Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, traditional archery (meaning wooden bows instead of fiberglass), and fencing.

CIR: As an attorney specializing in intellectual property and publishing contracts, do you see lots of hard luck stories?
SS: I see lots of people I wish had talked to me sooner, that’s for sure. Sadly, the worst mistake most authors make is also the most avoidable – they sign contracts they don’t understand without attorney (or qualified agent) review, and then they’re stuck with bad (or sometimes abusive) terms. It’s worth the price of review to avoid those mistakes.

CIR: Are you planning to make the Colorado Gold Conference again this year for the countless fans you’ll no doubt amass here on the Rock…in addition to the ones you already have?
SS: I love the Colorado Gold Conference, and I’m planning to attend it every year until I’m senile or “staring at the bottom side of the top side of the box” (as my father used to say). Colorado Gold has a unique combination of high-quality classes, fantastic people, and congenial atmosphere that really sets it apart. There’s a reason so many of us come back every year! (And I hope everyone reading this takes that as an invitation to join us in 2013.)

CIR: Thanks, Susan. We enjoy your power-packed punches on our blog.
Interview by Gusto Dave


j.a. kazimer said...

Congrats Susan!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent interview, Dave and Susan.