She grew up in a small town in Alabama during the Depression, spending her time taking on bullies, writing stories with her best friend and idolizing her father. She’d attempt to take the path her father wanted, enrolling in law school, but she’d leave it all behind to move to New York City to try to make it as a writer. And did Nelle Harper Lee ever make it as a writer. Her first, and only, novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” is considered one of the seminal works of the 20th Centuty.
It catapulted Lee into fame — a fame she didn’t really want. She retreated from the limelight, giving her last interview in 1965.
Charles J. Shields has written a biography of Lee: “Mockingbird; A Portrait of Harper Lee” is out now. In it Shields deals with her childhood in Monroeville (touching on her strained relationship with her mother and her friendship with Truman Capote), her struggle to write “To Kill a Mockingbird” and her retreat from public life. WBHM’s Rosemary Pennington spoke with Shields about the book and some of the obstacles thrown in his way as he attempted to write it.