Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep:
It was the first week of December, and Lee had never been so hopeful, or so hopeless. It had taken her seven years to write those stories; now Crain wanted her to write a whole novel. She didn’t know how to do so, and she barely had time around her airline shifts to even try. She told the Browns about the meeting and then made plans to see them for Christmas, since Advent was a homesick season for her and she wouldn’t be going back to Alabama for the holidays.
She spent Christmas Eve with the Browns in their town house, and when one of their boys woke her early in the morning, as little boys do on Christimas Day, she accompanied him downstairs. It was nice to be surrounded by a family, even if it wasn’t hers, and to be in a real house, even if she didn’t own it. The boys unwrapped their toy rockets, while Nelle honored the family’s tradition of presenting the best gift she could find for the least amount of money, giving her Anglophile friends a portrait of the Reverend Sydney Smith, an obscure English cleric, and the complete works of Margot Asquith, a countess and slightly less obscure English writer. When it finally came time for Nelle to open her gift, the Browns pointed to an envelope hanging among the tinsel and ornaments on their tree. Inside it was a sizable check made payable to Lee, together with a note that read, “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please.”