Born Janice Meredith Wilson in 1937, Jan Karon was raised on a farm near Lenoir, North Carolina. Karon knew at a very early age that she wanted to be a writer. She penned her first novel when she was 10 years old, the same year she won a short-story contest organized by the local high school. Karon married as a teenager and had a daughter, Candace.
At 18, Karon began working as a receptionist for a Charlotte, N.C. advertising agency. She advanced in the company after leaving samples of her writing on the desk of her boss, who eventually noticed her talent. Karon went on to have a highly successful career in the field, winning awards for ad agencies from Charlotte to San Francisco. In time, she became a creative vice president at the high-profile McKinney & Silver, in Raleigh. While there, she won the prestigious Stephen Kelly Award, with which the Magazine Publishers of America honor the year's best print campaign.
During her years in advertising, Karon kept alive her childhood ambition to be an author. At the age of 50, she left her career in advertising and moved to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, to pursue that dream. After struggling—and failing—to get a novel underway, Karon awoke one night with a mental image of an Episcopal priest walking down a village street. She grew curious about him, and started writing. Soon, Karon was publishing weekly installments about Father Tim in her local newspaper, The Blowing Rocket, which saw its circulation double as a result. "It certainly worked for Mr. Dickens", says Karon.
The Father Tim stories became Karon's first Mitford novel, At Home in Mitford. That book has since been nominated three times (1996, 1997, and 1998) for an ABBY (American Booksellers Book of the Year Award), which honors titles that bookstore owners most enjoy recommending to customers, and the only book ever nominated for three consecutive years. The fourth Mitford novel, A New Song, won both the Christy and Gold Medallion awards for outstanding contemporary fiction in 2000. A Common Life, In This Mountain, and Shepherd's Abiding have also won Gold Medallion awards. Out to Canaan was the first Mitford novel to hit the New York Times bestseller list; subsequent novels have debuted on the New York Times list, often landing the #1 spot.
Karon has also published two Christmas-themed books based on the Mitford series, The Mitford Snowmen and Esther's Gift, as well as Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader. Other Mitford books include Patches of Godlight: Father Tim's Favorite Quotes, a compilation of wit and wisdom, and A Continual Feast: Words of Comfort and Celebration, Collected by Father Tim. In addition, Karon has written two children's books, Miss Fannie's Hat and Jeremy: The Tale of an Honest Bunny, and an illustrated book for all ages, The Trellis and the Seed.
Karon says her character-driven work seeks to give readers a large, extended family they can call their own. Though Light From Heaven is officially the final novel in the series, there's yet another Mitford book in this prolific author. Karon urges her millions of ardent fans to look for the Mitford Bedside Companion, releasing in the Fall of 2006. "It has everything in it but the kitchen sink", says Karon.
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