Susan Spann is the award-winning author of CLIMB (Prometheus Books, 2020) and the Hiro Hattori mystery novels (Minotaur / Seventh Street Books), featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo.

Susan began reading precociously and voraciously from her preschool days in Santa Monica, California, and as a child 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.

In 2017, Susan made the bold decision to face her fears and climb 100 Japanese mountains in a single year, but while preparing to leave the United States, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She chronicles her fight to overcome cancer and fear, while learning what it means to “live your dream” in CLIMB: Leaving Safe & Finding Strength on 100 Summits in Japan (Prometheus Books, August 2020)

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery also 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.

Susan’s first novel, Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery (Minotaur Books, 2013) was named a Library Journal mystery debut of the month and was a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel.

The second and third Shinobi Mysteries, Blade of the Samurai (Minotaur Books, 2014) and Flask of the Drunken Master (Minotaur Books, 2015), also released to widespread critical and reader acclaim.

In 2016, Susan’s mystery series–now called the Hiro Hattori Novels–moved to Seventh Street Books, with the August release of the fourth installment, The Ninja’s Daughter (2016) followed by Betrayal at Iga (2017) and  Trial on Mount Kōya (2018), which pays dual homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and to Susan’s love for Kōyasan, one of Japan’s most sacred mountains.  

Ghost of the Bamboo Road released in November 2019 – a spooky season perfect for Hiro’s encounter with a legendary Japanese ghost, and the most recent Hiro Hattori novel, Fires of Edo, is available now wherever books are sold.

Currently, Susan is working on the ninth installment of the Hiro Hattori mysteries and a second work of narrative nonfiction about hiking the Kumano Kodo, a UNESCO World Heritage pilgrim trail in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture. 

Now a resident of Japan, Susan lives in Tokyo with Oobie, the cat who served as the inspiration for Hiro and Father Mateo’s cat, “Gato.”  When not writing or mountain climbing, she sharing her love of Japanese nature, history, and culture through her blog and social media feeds.  You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter (@SusanSpann), where she shares exciting stories and breathtaking images from her travels in Japan.

Susan was the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year, and is a former president of the Northern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. She is represented by literary agent Sandra Bond of Bond Literary Agency.

For appearance information, and to watch her latest video interviews, check out the appearances page!

13 thoughts on “About

  • February 17, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    i like ur blog, can i get it by email and a newsletter

    • March 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      Hi Karen! I’m working on getting a newsletter set up, so hopefully you’ll be able to get the updates that way very soon!

  • March 5, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Susan, what is a “Book club readers guide to…?”
    I’ve not heard of something like that before.

    • March 5, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Hi Ann! A book club readers’ guide is a set of questions book clubs can use for discussion. It’s not something they have to use, but a lot of the book clubs I’ve talked with (and participated in) find it easier to pick and discuss a book if the author provided a set of “conversation starter”-style questions to facilitate the discussion. I’ll be updating the website very soon, and a readers’ guide (aka book club guide) will be one of the features. I’m very excited about it!

  • June 10, 2015 at 7:38 am

    I found your website through the “Murder Is Everywhere” blog. I studied ninjitsu Iga style very briefly with Stephen Hayes back in 1981 and I find the art to be fascinating. I also went to Marquette University, which is run by Jesuits so I look forward to reading your series for a lot of reasons. (lol) Your first book is in our local library in Idaho Falls. I look forward to reading it.

    • June 10, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      Fabulous! I’m so glad you found me – and I agree, the ninjutsu arts are very interesting. I hope you enjoy the book, and I’m so glad that we connected!

  • July 8, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I just found your interview on Raven Haired Girl newsletter. I can’t wait to read your books. I would love to receive your newsletter.

    Have great and Blessed week and weekend.

    • July 27, 2015 at 6:25 pm

      Thank you so much! I should be getting a newsletter together very soon!

  • November 4, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Would you please include me when you start your newsletter. Delighted to have found this exciting new series.

  • January 10, 2016 at 7:28 am


    I’d like to be able to follow your blog without going through Networked Blogs (I prefer not to open my friends to their posts). I don’t see any other follow option. Am I just missing something? Thanks!

  • September 27, 2017 at 5:49 am

    Your comments on Genpuku, “Taking the Crown,” may back from February, 2013, were closed, but I thought I would mention mogi, “Adult Clothes.” Heian era females went through the ceremony in somewhat the same way as a cotillion in Western society. It was being “presented” in elegant clothing.

    In the Heian era the clothing called, junhitoe, was more than 12 layers and could weigh as much as samurai armor. A friend from World War Two was awarded a set as a gift for being a GI who taught English to Japanese. He said he was shocked that it weighed sixty pounds, hence the joke that it weighed as much as yoroi.

    The coming of age ceremony, as we all know, is a prom-like event that is still celebrated in contemporary Japan.

    Jill Liddell’s book, The Story of the Kimono, is well illustrated with old woodblocks, modern color photography, and texts that adds deep insight into the mode of dress in the kimono era. Japanese dye-makers were leaders in colors and patterns so that even the Chinese came to trade in order to get Japanese textiles before Japan was closed.

    • October 8, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      Thank you for the comment! I’ve read about this ceremony – Heian era customs are fascinating. I love learning more about them – most of my research is focused on the time between the start of the Kamakura period and the end of the Edo period, so it’s great to meet people who have done in-depth research on the Heian!

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