All you have to do is mention the words ‘Mitford series’ and readers everywhere will chime in with total praise for the genius writing of Jan Karon. I am happy to call Jan my friend. She was our Southern Lady of the Year in 2005. Barbara Cockerham, editor of Victoria, and I had the privilege of attending a beautiful all-white tea at Jan’s home. The large white tents on the lawn were filled with friends and colleagues that had come to celebrate this beautiful moment. The delicate foods and delicious teas were selected by Jan, and to our delight, we had the orange marmalade cake that is mentioned throughout the Mitford series. In fact, the entire weekend with her was a dream come true for us.
Visiting Jan’s writing studio was a beautiful glimpse into her private space where she makes her characters come to life. It is a lovely cottage on the grounds of her plantation. Complete with wonderful quilts, antiques, and, of course, her writing desk, it was just as I had expected.
It has been 20 years since Jan introduced us to Mitford, North Carolina, the fictional small town that is the setting for At Home In Mitford (1994), and nine years since the last Mitford book was written. I will always remember starting this series and reading for hours at a time. I love the characters and the intriguing way that Jan makes you a part of this town without you even realizing it.
For all of you readers that are still grieving over the loss of the series, I am pleased to announce that TODAY, Jan and her finely rendered cast of characters will make a triumphant return to Mitford in her new book Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good. As a testament to the wildly popular series, tens of millions of copies were sold before she wrapped up the series in 2005, and I am sure it will be a stampede to get copies of this book on the release date. I was fortunate to receive a review copy for editorial coverage in our magazines, and I can truthfully say you will not be disappointed.
I asked Jan the questions that we all have been wandering:
After a nine-year hiatus, what prompted the return to Mitford now?
Jan: My readers were wild to go back to Mitford. The general consensus was: Holly Springs, fine. County Sligo, fine. Now let’s go back to Mitford. Thankfully, I was curious myself. What was going on in the lives of characters I had lived with for 20 years? I was occasionally homesick for the place. Conclusion: Never say never.
What makes your books so popular?
When I began writing the series, I was dedicated to keeping it clean. That’s the way I like it, and I thought a few people might agree. Actually, millions agree, which, in the end, is no surprise. I find people everywhere to be basically decent, kindhearted, affectionate, helpful, funny, and ready for a laugh,a cry, and the assurance that God really does love us. I am here to encourage, console, and create a safe place between the covers of a book.
What can we expect in this newest addition to the series?
Father Tim Kavanagh and his talented and insightful wife Cynthia return, along with the entire cast of memorable characters brought to life again. Father Tim is still adjusting to retirement from Lord’s Chapel, and he’s trying to find new purpose in the process. As always, the bighearted and engaging Mitford residents look out for one another, celebrating life’s joys together and lifting each other up during life’s struggles. The result is an inspiring and thought-provoking tale that will thrill longtime fans and have new ones reaching in the backlist.
I have been intrigued about the way you write about your characters as if they lead you, rather than you creating them. What makes Father Tim so easy to be with and write about?
Hey, when I started writing about Father Tim, I found him on the boring side—too nice, maybe. Bland, but as we worked together, I got to know him better. He became deeper and so did the author. He suffered and so did I. We embarked on life together, and I began to find him trustworthy, funny, sensitive, loving, thoughtful of others, lacking a bit in self-esteem, hungry for love but scared of it, and with fewer defenses than the rest of us. I care very much for my man and thus have devoted, to date, 20 years of my life telling his story.
Jan Karon has written another beautiful book in the Mitford series. I just love the way she talks about her relationship with her characters and her finding out about them as she writes—very thought provoking! Congratulations, my friend, on another beautiful book. You make our world a more beautiful place.
Have you read any of Jan Karon’s books? Which was your favorite and why?