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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Guest Post by Susan Spann + a Giveaway

Happy Wednesday, readers! Today I'm super excited to welcome Susan to the blog as part of today's stop on the TLC tour for her latest, Betrayal at Iga. (There is a giveaway here, so be sure to read through to enter.)

Before I hand things over to Susan, here's a bit about the fifth entry in the fabulous Shinobi series, from Goodreads:

Autumn, 1565: After fleeing Kyoto, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo take refuge with Hiro s ninja clan in the mountains of Iga province. But when an ambassador from the rival Koga clan is murdered during peace negotiations, Hiro and Father Mateo must find the killer in time to prevent a war between the ninja clans.

With every suspect a trained assassin, and the evidence incriminating not only Hiro s commander, the infamous ninja Hattori Hanz, but also Hiro s mother and his former lover, the detectives must struggle to find the truth in a village where deceit is a cultivated art. As tensions rise, the killer strikes again, and Hiro finds himself forced to choose between his family and his honor.


And now, over to Susan!

Ninja Eats: Researching the Tastes of Medieval Japan 


mushroom soba
My newest Hiro Hattori novel, Betrayal at Iga, opens with a feast that goes horribly wrong. Although the sudden and unexpected death of a ninja ambassador is the focus of the scene, I faced a bigger—but admittedly more enjoyable—challenge writing about the food. 

Cuisine has always been an important part of Japanese culture. Since long before the medieval period, Japanese people have considered food a form of art—on a level with poetry, flower arranging, painting, and even the arts of swordsmanship and combat. Every region of Japan has culinary specialties, and many cities have specialized versions of regional dishes, too. 

Some foods are enjoyed throughout Japan—noodle dishes like ramen and udon are good examples—but even these ubiquitous favorites have often-dramatic regional variations. In some places, udon is eaten cold while in other places the noodles are served hot, in broth. The type of broth also varies regionally, from fish and seaweed dashi to pork-based soup and even curry. 

curry udon
Japanese menus also follow the seasons, with certain dishes appearing only at certain times of year. In Kyoto, chefs who prepare traditional kaiseki cuisine recognize twenty-four annual “seasons” instead of the four we normally see in the West. Some chefs even subdivide the 24 seasons into 72—each of which controls the ingredients and dishes to be served. 

For this reason, I try to travel in Japan at the times of year when my books take place as well as in the places where I set each mystery novel. Although the food has changed somewhat as modern transportation has expanded the range of available ingredients, many Japanese regional dishes have changed very little since the medieval era, which makes researching the food for my novels a delicious part of my travels in Japan. 

vegetable sashimi
I do face one unusual challenge when researching Japanese cuisine: I’m allergic to fish, which means that in some cases I have to use my sense of smell and my imagination to fill the gaps between the versions of dishes I can eat and the ones my characters enjoy. My ninja detective, Hiro, has a passionate love of udon served in dashi, topped with finely chopped onions and freshly grilled fish. Readers often ask if the dish is a favorite of mine as well, and are surprised to hear I’ve never actually eaten it. In reality, my son is the one who loves to eat Hiro’s favorite dish—the version I prefer is curry udon topped with tempura mochi—pounded rice cakes, fried to a crispy golden brown. 

I spend a lot of time researching Japanese food, and try to ensure the dishes that appear in my novels are accurate for the season and location in which they appear. Little details give life to the story, and I love that my novels let me share the exquisite and often exotic tastes of medieval Japan.

About the author: 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 debut 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.

Huge thanks to Susan for being on the blog today - now I need to go hunt down some noodles!

And now for the giveaway: to enter, simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, July 31. Open US only and no PO boxes please. 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway


Be sure to check back here in a bit for my Betrayal at Iga review post!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Susan Spann and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Books-A-Million | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Seventh Street Books

4 comments:

traveler said...

Thanks for this fascinating historical which interests me greatly.

bn100 said...

interesting

Angie Stormer said...

I love history and this book sounds great! I like the look of your blog. Thanks for the giveaway :)

John Smith said...

Looks like some old-fashioned Japanese derring-do! Great!