Harper Lee Still Prizes Privacy Over Publicity

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Some 37 years after "To Kill a Mockingbird" won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, it remains one of the best-loved novels in the canon of American literature - and the only book Harper Lee has ever written.

In an era when authors write sequels before their original novel has dropped off the bestseller list, Ms. Lee is an anomaly. The success of her novel, and the Academy Award-winning screenplay based on it, has enabled her to live a comfortable life out of the public eye.

An intensely private person, Lee does not grant interviews, but her literary agent, McIntosh and Otis, says she divides her time between her hometown of Monroeville, Ala., and New York. She enjoys reading, and her favorite authors are Jane Austen, Charles Lamb, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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After studying law, she wrote her novel in 1950s New York while working as an airline reservations clerk. Although Lee found writing difficult, she did help Truman Capote compile interviews for "In Cold Blood."

She has said her novel - the tale of a white Southern lawyer defending an innocent black man - is not autobiographical. But her father was a lawyer and the inspiration for the character Atticus Finch. Lee's sister, Alice, also became a lawyer and took over their father's practice.

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