wife was determined to march him to the country club
this Saturday evening. Worse, he’d have to stuff
himself into his old tux like sausage into a
begins Jan Karon’s "Somewhere Safe With Somebody
Good," her first Mitford novel in almost a decade.
Father Tim, the central character in the immensely
popular series, is in a cranky mood.
in the mountains of North Carolina, is a small town
whose residents really care about one another. Father
Tim, the now-retired rector of the Episcopal parish
church, is warm and caring, although quite human. This,
the 10th in the Mitford series, promises to continue the
success that’s made Karon both beloved and highly
have moaned about the nine-year wait, but Karon says it’s
not like "I’ve done nothing but eat
bonbons." In fact, ?she’s written several other
books, including two that took Father Tim to other
locales. "I’ve been quite busy."
life-long Southerner, she’s friendly and speaks with
the soft accents of the region — but with Yankee-like
speed and efficiency. She’s done a lot of interviews
in her time; she pretty much knows what you’re going
to ask and what she’s going to tell you.
who emerged from a difficult early life to become an
award-winning advertising writer, became a committed
Christian at 42. A quarter-century ago, at 48, she moved
to Blowing Rock, N.C., the model for Mitford, with the
intention of becoming a novelist. At first her stories
were serialized in the local paper (her pay was a free
subscription); then she found a publisher and built some
became an Episcopalian when she moved there, which
helped lead to the creation of Father Tim. "I
wanted to create a character through whose eyes we could
see an entire village," Karon says. "I didn’t
want all of these pods of thought (with different
characters giving their points of view); I wanted to get
into the head of someone whose worldview would be
comparable to my own, the bartender if you will, the one
who hears everybody’s story."
Father Tim came to her. "I actually had this waking
dream in which I saw a middle-aged overweight balding
man walking down the street," Karon says. "I
knew he was a priest because he was wearing a
if any of her books are destined for the screen, Karon
replied, "There have been many approaches —
Hallmark, several times; CBS — but nothing ever seemed
just right. I was never truly moved to make a deal. I do
feel that a deal is coming. It is perfect for film; it
is perfect for the screen."
who now lives near Charlottesville, Va., wrote her first
novel at age 10. She got into trouble for using a word
she’d found in "Gone With the Wind," from
Rhett Butler’s most famous line. It was the last time
she’d use profanity. "I would just say that out
of all the book titles, and I always conjure my own
titles, I like this one best. Somewhere safe, with
someone good: That’s what we all want."
wrote it for several reasons, "the most important
thing being that it was time to come back to Mitford.
The books are about balance, and that brought balance to
the series. Of course, my readers, who are devout, were
ardent about spending more time in Mitford. I suppose
you could say that Mitford is the main character. People
miss the kind of synergy or blend of ingredients, if you
will, that make Mitford such an intriguing place to
are those ingredients? "I think affection,
compassion, orneriness — there are quite a few ornery
people in Mitford — but they’re people who
essentially, while they would never be able to voice it,
enjoy that deep interconnection with other people. I
think that really characterizes the very basic (element)
of the success of the Mitford series. It’s all about
connection, community, interaction, about people rubbing
up against each other, if you will, in all sorts of
situations. In fact, the reason I write about small-town
life is that I like it myself."
added, "We have diabetes and child abuse and
alcoholism, and I can’t even think what else, but what
we have, basically, is a safe place. I write so my
readers will trust me to take them to a safe place where
they can laugh, they can cry, they won’t be assaulted
by bad language, where they can see through everyday
lives that God really does love us."
hears from those who think Mitford is too good to be
true. She doesn’t think so. Even New York City, she
observed, is filled with small, connected neighborhoods.
hope this doesn’t sound overly dramatic, but there is
a pathway to Mitford in the human heart. Give somebody a
hug; take somebody an apple pie. It’s just simple
stuff, really. You can make Mitford. Get busy."