Sunday, April 7, 2024

Q&A with Marie Mutsuki Mockett


Photo by Sylvia Rosokoff



Marie Mutsuki Mockett is the author of the new novel The Tree Doctor. Her other books include the novel Picking Bones from Ash


Q: What inspired you to write The Tree Doctor?


A: In many ways it is still a mystery. I've said that I saw a Tweet on Twitter, back when Twitter existed and when I was on Twitter. The Tweet was something like: "Those people having affairs are going to have a rough time during lockdown." And I thought, oh what a great idea for a story. But that is also something I think at least once a day.


Then I was at a garden center during the pandemic and saw a nice man helping nervous women with their plants and I thought; he has an opportunity.


This was not a generous thing to think, but again, it's the way a writer's brain works. We look for potential in a story. And then the opening appeared in my head and I started writing and did not stop. 


Q: The writer Celeste Ng said of the book, “If existential despair can kill, as the narrator thinks at one point, The Tree Doctor is about the opposite: how reconnecting with the world around you--and with your own soul--will help you survive.” What do you think of that description?


A: I like this description! The novel is about many things, but I do see it in part as being about a woman who is unexpectedly alone and feels that she is surrounded by decay. She wants to find a way to be alive and that happens metaphorically but literally.


After a pandemic, I think we are all at a psychic level still dealing with a traumatic experience and it is one we share. So how can we heal? 


Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: It really came to me all at once, though certain details were enhanced.


But I was spoiled in a way, because I realized that culturally a good part of Japanese history is about going through and overcoming crises like a pandemic.


I've tried to write about this recently--the rituals in Japan that face off with massive pestilence. Something exists in classical Japanese culture to confront this.


So I knew, before the pandemic, that we would come out the other side and that we would be changed and I was trying to envision what that path might look like based on history. 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: It is worth it to be alive and we should not apologize for wanting to live--and women in what we have called "middle age" absolutely have the right to feel the joy of life.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm not quite ready to talk about what I'm working on! But I'll share when I can.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Just that the book is not PG. But I think it is also not a hard read!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Marie Mutsuki Mockett.

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