Flynt's book on the enigmatic late author, Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee, is due out next week.

By Meghan Overdeep
December 11, 2019
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Not many had the privilege of knowing Harper Lee. The beloved Alabama-bred author was famously wary of the spotlight, and allowed a very select few into her inner circle right up until her death in 2016. There is one person, however, who managed to stay close with the To Kill a Mockingbird during her last few decades on earth, and that man is Alabama historian and author Wayne Flynt.

Flynt's book on the enigmatic late author, Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee, is due out next week. According to The New York Times, the highly-anticipated novel is based on his relationship with Lee, his visits to the nursing home where she lived in her last years, and the revealing letters she sent him. Ahead of the book's launch, Flynt sat down with the Times for an exclusive interview, and offered some fascinating insights into the reclusive writer's life.

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Below are a few of the most interesting things we learned from the interview.

  • She only autographed books for children.
  • In a 2006 letter, Lee referred to her childhood friend and fellow author Truman Capote as a liar. "I don't know if you understood this about him," she wrote, "but his compulsive lying was like this: if you said, ‘Did you know JFK was shot?' He'd easily answer, ‘Yes, I was driving the car he was riding in.'"
  • Her decadeslong friendship with Capote ended due to his jealousy. "I was his oldest friend, and I did something Truman could not forgive: I wrote a novel that sold," she wrote. "He nursed his envy for more than 20 years."
  • Public speaking events made her so nervous she would often vomit beforehand. To ease the pressure, she came up with what she called a "mantra of great egotism." It went, according to one letter "I'm older than anybody here, I know more than anybody here, so why should I be so afraid of anybody here?"
  • Lee lived a reclusive life due, in large part, to her fear of obsessive fans an assassination.
  • A book of C.S. Lewis' complete works lay on her ottoman when she died.

Read the full interview with Flynt on NYTimes.com. Mockingbird Songs: My Friendship with Harper Lee hits shelves May 2, 2017.

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