Q&A With Marie Mutsuki Mockett

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Q&A With Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Marie Mutsuki Mockett is the author of four books two of which are fiction and two which are non-fiction. Marie’s books are Picking Bones From Ash, Where The Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye, American Harvest: God, Country and Farming in The American Heartland, & coming out on March 19th 2024 is The Tree Doctor. In Marie’s bio she has written for many publications such as LitHub, Elle & The Guardian.


Q: Would you like to tell the readers of the blog about your upcoming release The Tree Doctor & how you came up with the concept for the novel?

A: The book is a novel. My last book, which was nonfiction, came out just as the pandemic started and I saw my events and certain news articles cancelled. Of course, a lot of people lost a lot during the pandemic, so I’m not alone, but it was devastating to have been so excited about that last book and to see the momentum sag. To cheer myself up, I decided to write a novel. I thought I would make it a short book, with a small cast of characters. 

As for the plot, I really was just at a garden center, getting some help plants when I thought; I wonder how many of the women here have a crush on the nice man who helps them pick plants. From there, the novel took on a life of its own.

Q: Since you write both fiction and non-fiction, which genre do you enjoy writing more & why? 

A: I can’t really say I like one more than the other. I will say I never expected to write nonfiction and it has been a pleasure to work with it as a way to explore some questions and tell certain stories.

Q: What’s it like having written for famous publications such as LitHub, The Guardian & Elle? What advice would you give to anyone wanting to submit pieces to those publications? 

A: It’s always an honor to see your name in print. Mostly, I’m just surprised my essays were accepted, but pleased too. Each time I have had help, though. In the case of the Guardian, they asked for a piece on writing and on Japan. They’ve never asked again. For Elle, my publicist pitched an essay. The same is true of Lit Hub. Each time these pieces were pitched around the release of a book. I have not necessarily gone out of my way to continue to write magazine articles ,which some people do as a way to continue their career. So I don’t know that my advice helps. I do know that pitching is essential—and that means learning to work with rejection.

Q: Where do your ideas come from when you are writing fiction? For your non-fiction how do you choose your topics to write about?

A: This is a good question. I would say with nonfiction, I need to have some large theme or question in mind, for which I don’t have an answer. The writing is the attempt to answer this important question. With a novel, I get a kernel of an idea, and it begins to grow in my imagination—or it dies. If it dies, then I know it doesn’t have the richness to turn into a book and I let it go. But if it keeps growing in my mind, then I know it can become a longer work.

Q: I know The Tree Doctor is coming out March 19th 2024. Are you currently working on your next fiction and/or non-fiction books? 

A: I have been in Japan on a Fulbright Award, mostly doing research and collecting stories. So, not much writing. But I have just started to write something now that may become something longer. I don’t want to say more than that!

Q: What drew you into writing? Who were/are your biggest supporters of your writing goals and talent?

A: I loved to read and started trying to write my own stories before I knew about writing as a profession. I learned that my grandmother had been a writer—and then I knew it was something I wanted to do too. I was young, though. Maybe around twelve. As for my biggest supporters—my very biggest was my mother, who died two years ago of Covid. Both my parents were supportive, but she really was behind me, as was my Aunt and grandmother. They are all gone. My husband, Gordon, has never given me a hard time for the years I spent trying to become a writer, before I finally got somewhere. I am grateful to him.

Q: If Picking Bones From Ash & The Tree Doctor were to be adapted by Hollywood (if they haven’t already got the rights to it) who would be your ideal cast to play the characters you created?

A: I think it’s best not to jinx this with an answer!

Q: What’s your advice to anyone wanting to write fiction and non-fiction?

A: Write and read a lot and be fearless. Don’t waste time. Write everything—long essays, short essays, short stories, micro fiction. The more you write, the more opportunities you will create for yourself.

Q: What helpful advice would you give to new writers on how to deal with negativity whether its reviews, online trolls and family and friends who may not support their goals?

A: Love your work. Learn to be happiest in the actual writing since it is writing that begets writing. The rest—whether you win a prize, or people criticize you-is noise.