Sometimes an author is a one hit wonder. And sometimes it just takes an author a really long time to make a serious comeback. While fans of the George R. R. Martin series, “Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire” are still anxiously awaiting the next installment in the lives of their favorite characters, and the “Wheel of Time” series followers are still mourning the lost of Robert Jordan before the tale was fully told; those who loved the words of Harper Lee are suddenly shaken into surprised elation.
Harper Lee made her imprint on the literary world with “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and that was all she wrote. Or so everyone thought. It is an interesting thing indeed when a writer who made such an enormous impact on contemporary literature, as well as bringing the world’s eyes open to the issues of a tumultuous era in American history, disappears from the pages herself. It is even more interesting though when that same author suddenly resurfaces after nearly half a century.
Want to make this news even more insane? It really is! Harper Lee’s “new” book was actually written before “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Further down the rabbit hole on this story; “Go Set a Watchman” is the story Harper Lee originally wrote, but that “To Kill a Mockingbird” was created from.
Editors and publishers, especially the bigger ones, do have a tendency to move a writer’s original words to “make them better”. In some cases these changes are small and really work to keep the author’s story true to its original meaning and voice. In other cases, this one as severe as it gets, the publisher wants a whole new novel fashioned from the scraps of this original work. Harper Lee was new to the writing world and being a “good little” writer, she took the publisher’s advice and wrote what she was told. The publisher was in this case, dead on for creating a bestseller that has also stood the test of time.
But what about when it is time for the real story to surface? What will readers think of Harper Lee’s honest, and really, still very much novice hand as a writer? I am personally looking forward to reading the what could have been of “To Kill a Mockingbird”. While editors and publishers may know that the public wants, in some ways they also steal away that part that makes writing art, and the writer and artist.