Harper Lee, the Recluse
Harper Lee, the reclusive author of To Kill A Mockingbird, is profiled in depth in today’s Chicago Tribune. The site requires registration, but the article is worth a read. An excerpt:
And so in 1949, a 23-year-old Lee moved into a cold-water flat in Manhattan, where her friend Capote already had set up shop as a promising young novelist. She took a job as an airlines clerk and wrote in her off hours.
She was able to quit the airlines job and start writing full time after a turn of events worthy of an O. Henry short story. A married couple, her best friends in New York, had hatched a plan. One Christmas in the late 1950s, Harper Lee was at their home, and she found an envelope addressed to her on the tree. Inside was the promise of a substantial sum of money delivered with a simple message: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” Lee recounted that turning point, “a full, fair chance for a new life,” as she called it, in the December 1961 edition of McCall’s magazine.
“I went to the window, stunned by the day’s miracle,” Lee wrote. “Our faith in you was really all I had heard them say. I would do my best not to fail them.”
Lee insisted on making the gift a loan, which she later repaid.
Her initial efforts were short stories. Then, at the suggestion of her literary agent, Maurice Crane, she expanded one of them into what would become “To Kill a Mockingbird.”