If privacy has a face, it’s the face of author Harper Lee, who wrote what many consider to be the great American novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird", which inspired an equally beloved movie.
That was more than half-a-century ago. At age 88, the author remains a mystery to the nation, but not to this woman, who'll never forget the day her phone rang and she heard these words, “Well, hello, Miss Mills. This is Harper Lee. I wonder if we might meet?"
Marja Mills is the author of the new book The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee. She calls it a memoir of her nine-year friendship with the author that began in 2001, when she was a Chicago Tribune reporter sent to find Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama.
INSIDE EDITION’S Les Trent sat down with Mills and asked her, "Did you think it was an impossible task to actually meet Harper Lee?"
Mills replied, "In a word, yes! She was somebody right away who I could see loved to laugh, which isn't something I had expected."
Mills says she rented the house next door to Harper Lee and her sister, Alice, for a year-and-a-half and found out why Harper Lee never published another book.
Mills told INSIDE EDITION, “She said, 'One, I said what I had to say, and two, I’d never go through all that publicity again, for all the money in the world'."
Harper Lee's lifelong friendship with Truman Capote, as portrayed in the movie Capote, is well known. Did he help her write her masterpiece?
“There were certain myths. One of them had to do with Truman Capote's rumored involvement in writing of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is just not the case."
Did Harper Lee give her blessing to the book Marja Mills was writing? In a recently released letter, Lee is quoted saying, "Rest assured as long as I’m alive, any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood."
Mills insists she had Harper Lee’s blessing and full knowledge about the book, saying, “She had a way of kind of crooking her index finger and saying to me, now you put that in there. Meaning, I'd like you to include this in the book."
A spokesman for Penguin Press told INSIDE EDITION, "Quite frankly, we question if the most recent letter was indeed written by Harper Lee and reflects her true state of mind."
Trent asked Mills, "Do you consider Harper Lee a friend?"
Mills replied, “I certainly did. She's somebody I have such respect and affection for. She is truly an original."