Sunday, February 8, 2015

Harper Lee's First Novel that is now her Second

Harper Lee is coming out with a second novel but in fact it is her first that the publishers rejected. I had read about how Mockingbird  was written with heavy input from her publisher. This is during the time when editors actually worked closely with writers to produce novels. But Harper Lee had actually written a first novel  and the editor rejected it and suggested she write the book from Scouts viewpoint.

If you read To Kill A Mockingbird the first part is really a series of interrelated stories while the second part is a fully integrated  novel. That first part I will bet came from this original manuscript the publisher rejected. Writers do that. They cannibalize the good out of one manuscript for something else. This then is the book that is coming out in July.

A lot has been written about why she is publishing this. The better question is why didn't Harper Lee ever write another novel. That is a more interesting question. The old wisdom said if you knock one out of the park then why ever do it again? That sounds good but it doesn't pertain to writers. Writers are people who write regardless of their success. Unless they cant.

The story I read about the writing of To Kill A Mockingbird had her describing a very difficult process of forging this novel. There was a lot of back and forth with her editor. Maybe she didn't know what to do after Mockingbird. It happens. Then the next question of WHY. Why now? Why bring out an old manuscript originally rejected by the publisher? It is not money. I think I read she makes 1.6 million off of royalties every six months.

Maybe she got tired of being the one trick writer. Or maybe, she believed the book had merit. And that it should have been published. Maybe the age of sequels or prequels in this case made her think it was alright to publish her first effort. We will never know why she published it, but in about five months we will find out if that editor was right to reject that book.
The Pitcher

Books by William Hazelgrove