Loyal Mitford Fans Are Finally Rewarded with a New Book from Author Jan Karon

Author Jan Karon talks about her return to the best-selling Mitford books that showcase the importance of faith in everyday life.
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Author Jan Karon talks about her return to the best-selling Mitford books that showcase the importance of faith in everyday life.
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Before selling millions of her heartwarming books about life in the small North Carolina town of Mitford, Jan had a successful writing career in advertising.  Yet she yearned to become an author, which was a childhood dream since the age of 10.  In 1990 Jan finally left her career to move to the mountain village of Blowing Rock, NC, and write books.  “I stepped out on faith to follow my lifelong dream of being an author,” she says.  “I made real sacrifices and took big risks.  But living, it seems to me, is largely about risk.”  Jan writes about Christian characters in a way that is entertaining and heartwarming.  The main character in her best-selling series is a 60+ year-old Episcopal priest named Father Tim Kavanaugh.  

Jan’s books commonly feature her faith and food.  She says that food is a great way of communicating.  “When I write about Dooley loving fried baloney sandwiches, you can connect with that,” she says.  Food is something we all understand; it’s a common language.  It’s one more way readers are encouraged to feel “At Home in Mitford,” the name of her first book.  When Jan stepped out on faith to become an author, she planned to earn her living as a freelance writer while learning how to write a novel.  Two things happened: One, “I found that I had absolutely nothing to say,” she says.  Two, the economy went into a serious downturn, which meant ad agencies weren’t hiring freelancers.  So after stepping out on faith, Jan discovered she knew nothing about writing books, money wasn’t coming in, and the bills were piling up.

“My first novel is loaded with food references largely because my cupboards were bare, and I was writing hungry,” she says.  “No self-pity here, however.  I could wear my size 10s!”  Jan says this is when she learned to make soup from chicken bones, a recipe she included in her first book.  “It has a sort of WWII spirit, which some of you will recognize from personal experience.”  She learned a lot of other things about making something out of nothing as she wrote the first three books, including how to cut open a presumably empty toothpaste tube and find more toothpaste.  What she learned mostly though, is “that God is faithful.  He really does love us.  And he really does want the best for His children.”  Jan says if you are on a painful journey through the valley, “ask Him to walk through it with you.”  Make some chicken soup from chicken bones, and give thanks.  

OUT OF THE VALLEY
“What happened during this long and anxious period is that God was drawing me closer to Himself, strengthening my faith, and encouraging my trust,” Jan says.  “We know nothing grows on the high mountain peaks; fertility lies in the valleys.” After journeying with her through a very long valley, the Lord brought her out with “something to say.”  One night while lying in bed, the mental image of a priest walking down a village street came to her.  In her imagination, Jan followed him as he walked.  He went to a dog named Barnabas, and they went to a boy named Dooley.  “That’s when I got out of bed and went to my desk and started to write,” Jan says.  “Who would want to write a book about a balding, overweight, 60-something small-town priest?  And who would want to read it,” she thought.  Although Jan wasn’t exactly thrilled about writing about the subject, she knew this was something she would like to read. 

Ten years ago, Jan announced that she had written her last book in the Mitford series. She continued to write novels with Father Tim visiting his birthplace then Ireland.  “Father Tim needed to travel and get out of Mitford,” she says.  “Now we are back.”  She says many of her fans say that the town is the main character.  “People enjoy being in Mitford; it’s a whole community,” she says.  Father Tim and his wife Cynthia return along with the entire cast of memorable characters as Father Tim adjusts to retirement.

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