Meet Jan Karon
Fiction seems to be her destiny. When Jan Karon was born in 1937, she was named for a popular novel—Janice Meredith by Paul Leicester Ford. At the tender age of 10, she wrote her first novel. But she ignored her calling until 41 years later, when she finally left the security of a successful advertising career. Sacrificing and risking much, she stepped out in faith to begin creating the fictional world of Mitford, North Carolina—whose motto is "We take care of our own."
Karon’s life was not always as "idyllic" as that of Father Tim, the central character in her beloved Mitford series. "There was a lot of brokenness in my family," she observes. "Writing is a way of processing our lives. And it can be a way of healing." (Star Tribune, Minneapolis-St. Paul) Her father left home when she was three, and her grandparents raised her and her younger sister on their farm. She left school after the eighth grade to enter the work force. She married young, was a mother at age 17, and became a single parent soon afterward. At 18 she took a job as a receptionist at an advertising firm, and with her characteristic determination and hard work, gradually moved up to become vice president—all while raising her daughter.
Ms. Karon was raised in the Methodist church, but did not make a commitment to Christ until the age of 42. She describes herself as having been ". . . driven to the wall by the circumstances and tragedy of life." (Christianity Today’s Web site) She continued to resist the urge to be a writer, but seven years after coming to Christ, she began praying that if God wanted her to write books, he’d open the doors for her. Two years later she moved to Blowing Rock, NC, the model for the bucolic town of Mitford.
Her books are free of profanity, sex, and violence, yet three have made it to the New York Times bestseller list. Her fast-reading, feel-good novels are filled with vignettes exploring the relationships of her well-crafted and very believable characters. But her stories are not about a sugar-coated world. People experience pain in Mitford—children are neglected, people get sick, and relationships falter. The series’ central figure is long-suffering Father Tim Kavanaugh, a loveable Episcopal priest who ministers to the physical and spiritual needs of his parish, and who controls his oversized dog by quoting Scripture. Karon’s stories depict the faith of day-in, day-out living. She also manages to slip the gospel message into each story (between the humor and the down-home feel) with such ease that readers don’t feel preached to.
More than two million of her books are in print. There are 7 Mitford books as well as several companion books--Patches of Godlight: Father Tim's Favorite Quotes, The Mitford Snowmen: A Christmas Story, Esther's Gift: A Mitford Christmas Story, and A Common Life: The Wedding Story. The Mitford books have been published in large print, and audio format, and are being translated into Spanish. Hallmark is also developing a line of greeting cards based on the series. In addition, Karon has written a children’s book, Miss Fannie’s New Hat, inspired by her grandmother.
Her upcoming book is Shepherds Abiding, an eighth Mitford novel.
Anyone who has read Jan Karon’s books will agree—a trip to Mitford is good for the soul!