Writing & Publishing

Harper Lee, Literary Crazy?

AHH! If you are not living under a rock, you heard the news! Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, is about to release her second book, EVER.

Well, it’s about damn time!

I always wondered why we only heard from her once. Just like Margaret Mitchell who wrote Gone With The Wind, we have a brilliant author and only one work. Sadly, Margaret Mitchell met her demise when she (reportedly) walked out into the middle of a busy street without looking, and was struck by a car. It breaks my heart knowing she died so young (she was 48). I wonder what else she would have penned!

I suppose because I knew Harper Lee was still alive, I did not put much thought into why we only have one work from her, and only gave it passing thoughts.

Monday when I heard the news of a new book, I started searching high and low for more information. As it turns out, the 88 year old author did not recently pen a new novel, but wrote Go Set A Watchman BEFORE she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. The new book is set AFTER To Kill A Mockingbird, by the way.

So as I sat at the kitchen table (not working on my homework, but scouring the internet for more information) I had to ask the question. Since I’ve been working on my book proposal for Literary Crazy, where I link creativity, mental illness, and famous authors together, I HAD to do a Google search.

Bill was sitting at the table with me and of course we were both excited for the news of a new book by Lee, but we both got a good laugh when I told him “I have to know…….” as I pounded away at the keyboard.

Without missing a beat, Bill leaned over to see my computer screen and asked with a smile, “So what mental disorder does she have?”

It’s funny how people can know each other so well and how he knew I instantly was looking up any information I could on the subject.

Here is what I have found so far (and once I’m done with this post, you can bet I’ll be on email to my professor who has encouraged me to write on this subject and see what he thinks!)

Harper Lee’s mother suffered from mental illness and it was probably Bipolar Disorder. Harper Lee herself has been called a recluse of sorts. Her editor (who also just found out about the book this week) insists she is not a recluse and has no problems with socialization.

Bill and I beg to differ.

Last night laying in bed, we continued the discussion on Harper Lee (because all normal couples have long, late night discussions about brilliant writers and their mental illnesses!) As it turns out, Lee wrote Go Set A Watchman FIRST and stashed the novel away so she could write To Kill A Mockingbird, at the suggestion of a close friend.

For the last 55+ years, the novel was allegedly “forgotten” about as it sat in a safe. Recently it was reportedly “rediscovered” by the attorney for Lee, who went into the safe.

Bill and I call BULLSHIT!


Because I am one of the most ADHD people to ever walk this earth (I found my phone in the freezer yesterday, in case you doubt me) and I still know where ALL of my novels are. I know where every piece of writing is, and I know what I’ve written.

So Bill (also super ADHD……we are hoping the baby comes out opposite us and is super focused….two negatives make a positive, right?) and I came up with this theory:

We think (and we are not experts, so don’t go quoting us and starting internet rumors!) she has social anxiety and CHOSE to “forget” about the novel after the insane popularity of To Kill A Mockingbird. No one can predict what a book will do. Of course her editors can love and praise a book, and then have it flop when it hits the shelves. In fact, To Kill A Mockingbird has reportedly sold over 40 million copies.

Admitting, Lee says she found the publicity she received from her first novel to be “overwhelming” and she had said all she had to say in her one novel.

Personally, I think there is something else there….be it social anxiety disorder or not. Time will tell. I’m sure there are actual experts out there who will have something to say about it. I doubt we will hear much more from Lee, who is now 88, and lives in a nursing home following a stroke suffered in 2007.

What do you think? Social anxiety? Something else? I won’t be including Lee in the book I’m currently working on, but it doesn’t mean she won’t be included in an updated version in the future!

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