Monroeville, AlabamaNelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama on April 28, 1926, the youngest of four children. One of Lee's playmates was a little boy named Truman Persons who would also grow up to be a writer. (Both Truman and Nelle had different pen names; Nelle became Harper while Truman kept his first name but changed his last to Capote). Capote, in fact, is the model for Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee herself was a tomboy just like her creation, Scout.
Off to Tuscaloosa
Tuscaloosa, AlabamaLee's father, Amasa was a former newspaper editor who became a respected attorney(and the model for Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird). Following in her father's footsteps, Lee studied law at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and wrote for the school newspaper.
New York , New YorkThrough her friend Truman Capote, Lee met composer and lyricist, Michael Brown and his wife, Joy. For Christmas 1956, the Browns gave Lee the gift of a year's salary with a note: "You have one year off to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas."
Another Guardian Angel
New York, New YorkAt Lippincott, Lee's manuscript caught the attention of editor Tay Hohoff. "The spark of the true writer flashed in every line," recalled Hohoff. But there was a long way to go before it would be ready for publication. As Hohoff described Lee's manuscript, it was "more a series of anecdotes than a fully conceived novel."
"After a couple of false starts," continued Hohoff, "the story-line, interplay of characters...grew clearer, and with each revision--there were many minor changes as the story grew in strength, and in her own vision of it--the true stature of the novel became evident."
"I was a first time writer," said Lee in a 2015 statement, "so I did what I was told."
But not always. "When she disagreed with a suggestion," remembered Hohoff, "we talked it out, sometimes for hours. And sometimes she came around to my way of thinking, sometimes I to hers, sometimes the discussion would open up an entirely new line of country."
To The Movies
Los Angeles, CaliforniaIn 1962, playwright Horton Foote adapted Lee's novel into an Academy-Award Winning Screenplay. Lee herself was pleased with the final result: "I think it's one of the best translations of a book to film ever made."
Lee visited the set and became friends with the star, Gregory Peck. In this clip, Peck talks about Lee's visit on the first day of shooting.
Please click on the picture icon lower right to view a PDF of the complete final draft of screenplay from February 8, 1962.
By Robert Waldman
Lee's Only Recorded Interview About To Kill A Mockingbird
New York, New YorkIn 1964, Lee talked with WQXR host Roy Newquist for an interview in New York. For the first time, that interview is now available to listen to online. The interview is the only known recording of Lee discussing "To Kill a Mockingbird," among other topics, and one of the last interviews she would ever give.
United StatesIn 2014, Lee's attorney, Tonja Carter, examined Lee's safe-deposit box and discovered the long thought to be lost manuscript for Go Set A Watchman, the first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird.
A year later, in July 2015, Harper Collins controversially published Go Set A Watchman, marketing it as a new book despite the fact that many passages exist that are word for word identical to To Kill A Mockingbird.
Please click on video to view "Beyond To Kill A Mockingbird: The Lost Novel of Harper Lee."