Filling the Flask: Author Susan Spann Talks on Challenging Yourself in Your Writing and Dreams

Filling the Flask

By Susan Spann, Author of The Flask of the Drunken Master

One of the things I love most about writing mystery novels set in medieval (samurai-era) Japan is the ability use dramatically different “backdrops” for every novel, while maintaining the same detectives and central cast of recurring characters.

Japan has always been a land of dramatic contrasts—geographically, culturally, and socially. Even today, a ten-minute walk in a Japanese city can take you on a thousand-year journey from ancient temples:

Flask - Temple gate

Temple Photo Owned by Susan Spann

…to modern neon lights.

Flask - Tokyo Lights

Toyko Lights Photo Owned by Susan Spann

This diversity existed (though in a somewhat different form) during the 16th century, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of writing the Shinobi Mystery novels. Each new story takes my detectives, Hiro and Father Mateo, (and the readers, and me) into a new and curious part of medieval Japanese culture.

In Claws of the Cat, it was the entertainment district, home to the teahouse culture and the entertainers who came to be known as geisha:

Flask - Geisha dance

Geisha Dancing, Photo Owned by Susan Spann

In Blade of the Samurai, the victim died within the shogun’s palace, and the investigation focused on the samurai warriors’ martial culture:

Flask - Samurai Palace

Samurai Palace Photo by Susan Spann

Perhaps my favorite novel so far is the newest one, Flask of the Drunken Master, because it lets me take Hiro and Father Mateo—and, hopefully, you—on a journey into the heart of Kyoto’s sake brewers and moneylenders’ guilds.

The idea for Flask came from my desire to spend more time with Suke the monk, a balding, nearly-toothless Buddhist cleric who often sleeps in the alley outside Ginjiro’s brewery. I’ve loved Suke since Claws of the Cat, and he fills a ‘standard’ role in Japanese fiction—the part of the holy fool, who speaks with equal parts silliness and wisdom.

Once the idea sprang to life, I needed to find a way to make a story revolve around a secondary character who spent most of his time either drunk or living in a world that had only a tenuous connection with the reality the rest of my cast calls home. I knew Suke would spring to the defense of the brewer whose shop he frequents—and that his creative view of reality would pose a challenge for those around him. That proved especially true for Hiro, my ninja detective, who ends up having to channel Suke’s awkward but well-intentioned efforts to prevent the monk from derailing the investigation altogether.

Fortunately, Hiro likes a challenge as much as I do.

I think it’s important for people to challenge themselves on a regular basis. If we do only the things we recognize or know we do well, we’ll never know how far our skills can improve, or how far our dreams and abilities might take us. That theme appears in my novels, too—especially in Flask, where Hiro begins to accept that his personal path from assassin to bodyguard is also requiring him to become a detective. Fortunately, he enjoys that role as much as I enjoy writing novels, and I have many more exotic locations (and crimes) for Hiro to visit in books to come.

Dreams are important, and lovely, but they can take us only so far. We have to push ourselves to fill up our “flasks.” I’ll continue to challenge myself to improve with every story, and to continue exploring exotic locations that offer unique and different opportunities to journey around medieval Japan. I hope you’ll join me on that journey—and also that you challenge yourself to pursue whatever fantastic places your own aspirations and dreams may take you.

The flask of your next adventure is yours to fill.

Flask - sake shop

Sake Shop Photo Owned by Susan Spann

And if you’d like more information on Susan and her books besides what’s provided below, please check out this interview I had with her a few weeks ago———–>READ INTERVIEW

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Flask of the Drunken Master, Information~

Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9781250027061
Pages: 304

Series: Shinobi Mysteries (Volume 3)
Genre: Historical Mystery

GoodReads Link

August 1565: When a rival artisan turns up dead outside Ginjiro’s brewery, and all the evidence implicates the brewer, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo must find the killer before the magistrate executes Ginjiro and seizes the brewery, leaving his wife and daughter destitute. A missing merchant, a vicious debt collector, and a female moneylender join Ginjiro and the victim’s spendthrift son on the suspect list. But with Kyoto on alert in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, a rival shinobi on the prowl, and samurai threatening Hiro and Father Mateo at every turn, Ginjiro’s life is not the only one in danger.

Will Hiro and Father Mateo unravel the clues in time to save Ginjiro’s life, or will the shadows gathering over Kyoto consume the detectives as well as the brewer?

Flask of the Drunken Master is the latest entry in Susan Spann’s thrilling 16th century Japanese mystery series, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo.

Shinobi Mystery Series Titles

Book One: Claws of the Cat (Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month)
Book Two: Blade of the Samurai
Book Three: Flask of the Drunken Master

Flask of the Drunken Master Available at~

Barnes & Noble

About the Author, Susan Spann~


Susan Spann acquired her love of books and reading during her preschool days in Santa Monica, California. As a child she read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

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. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website and blog. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

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Tour Schedule:

Hashtags: #FlaskoftheDrunkenMasterBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #ShinobiSeries



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9 responses to “Filling the Flask: Author Susan Spann Talks on Challenging Yourself in Your Writing and Dreams

  1. I have just ordered “Flask of the Drunken Master”, after having read – and hugely liked – the first two titles of the Shinobi Mystery Series. Highly recommended! Looking forward to enjoy this third novel in the series….

    Liked by 1 person

    • HI Bob!! How are you? Long time no talk. Wonderful! Yes, I love them too and this one is very good, getting my review up soon. Hope to read something from you soon too. 🙂 Hope your summer is going well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Erin, I am extremely busy, doemetoch (Flemish curse :-)). I’m retired and I’m busier than ever :-). Very nice piece on Susan. I have a literary agent (Peter Riva) and he’s going to submit “Return to Hiroshima” in August. And editing the last version of the English translation of another novel: “Shadow of the Mole.” So, together with the care for our beloved horses, my summer is filled to the brim! 🙂 Oh well, it keeps me out of the pub, a favorite pastime for many Flemings, moehahaha….You’re doing very well with your blog, keep up the good work and enjoy the sun….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much for hosting me – and thank you Bob! It’s nice to see you here also!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Susan, nice piece from Erin about you. I was very jealous(:-)) when I read in a blog – I don’t remember the title, it’s a blog with each time a different author – about your visit to Japan. Grrrrr! 🙂 After so many years, I would like to visit it, but, oh well…I can read about it via you 🙂 . I hope to start reading “The Flask of the Drunken Master” as soon as possible. Delivery from to Belgium is usually within the week. Success!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. karenwrites19

    Hi Erin,
    Thanks for sharing Susan’s book ” Flask of the drunken Master”.
    very Intriguing. I have an ongoing love affair with Japan too.
    From writing to a childhood pen- pal from Japan to hosting two Japanese students … to writing a crime manuscript titled Sayonara.
    Karen 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks, Susan and Erin. This post introduced me to a new series that sounds like something I’d really enjoy. Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

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