banner
Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Jan Karon

Posted November 6, 2008 9:10 a.m. EST
Updated November 10, 2008 3:14 p.m. EST

The red light was blinking on my telephone when I arrived at work recently at 3:50AM. I had missed a call the day before. I punched in the necessary password and listened to the message as I sipped from a steaming cup of coffee.

"Hello, Bill! This is Jan Karon. Remember me?" I almost choked. I had interviewed Jan several years ago on WRAL's Noon News. I remembered her as one of the most charming, gracious and elegant people I had ever met. I wondered what an author who had sold more than 30 million copies of her books including the hugely popular Mitford series would want to ask me. I started thinking about her amazing life story.

Growing up on a farm with her grandparents near Lenoir, Jan wrote her first novel at age ten. She drew inspiration from 'Gone With the Wind' and was careful to give her heroine, Emmaline, an 18" waist.  She married at an early age, and after the birth of a daughter, Candace, was divorced and went to work as a receptionist with an advertising agency in Raleigh. Jan kept writing and her fine work drew the attention of a boss. She gained a promotion and eventually rose to one of the top positions in the company winning major awards and clients worldwide.

Then at age 50 Jan Karon gave it all up. She moved to Blowing Rock to follow her lifelong dream - to write books. At first it was a struggle but eventually the plots and characters came together. A publisher was found. A star was born. Jan Karon struck a chord with millions of readers hungry for an escape to the peaceful and idyllic town of Mitford with its interesting cast of characters including Father Tim of the local Episcopal Church.

Jan has since moved to a farm in Virginia and continues to turn out terrific novels including several children’s books. She is also working on an Irish-themed novel.

I called Jan later that morning and we had a nice chat. She recalled a CD I gave her when she was at WRAL several years back. Jan wanted to use some of my music for a project. Obviously I was delighted so I sent her all of my albums and she picked a couple of tunes to use. She also gave me a wonderful critique of my book Blue Ridge Reunion which is about my own taste of Mitford – growing up in Morganton and going to the Episcopal Church there.

What is your favorite Jan Karon book? Please discuss.

And one other thing:  what would you do if you "gave it all up" and followed your bliss as Jan did?