It began simply enough. Author Jan Karon penned little short stories about small town minister Father Tim and his dog, Barnabas. They were published in the "Blowing Rocket," a weekly newspaper in Blowing Rock, N.C. Those stories became the basis for "The Mitford Years" novels. Well, it has been nine years and Karon visits The Early Show to celebrate the last novel in the series, "Light from Heaven." Click here to read an excerpt. In describing "The Mitford Years" Karon says: "So many people don't know that God loves them. They feel, 'Why would God love me? Why would he be interested in me?' For one thing, He made us and that makes us pretty interesting to Him. He wants the best for us, and more important than any of that, God really does love us. "The dark book has been terribly popular. Dark characters, dysfunction, and all sorts of things from reality that are true in our world. But I think the revolutionary thing about the Mitford series is that it simply looks at the other side. The moon has a dark side and a bright side. I choose to look at the light side. It's as real and authentic and absolutely compelling as the dark side. In a dark world, we have to be able to keep our eyes on the bright side. "These people (characters in the books) are decent, ordinary people. My experience of these people is that they are good people. Cynics will say there are no good people out there. And if you read the papers and watch TV news you could be convinced of that. But there are good people. These books are my 'Fanfare for the Common Man.' " And her readers, she says, do not have to be religious to enjoy her novels. "It only helps to have sense of humor. I really care about my readers. I care about anyone who reads my books. I care about what they will find in those covers and I want them to be able to take something away with them. I don't want them to walk away empty." Mitford is a very small town. And Karon says there's something especially appealing about small-town life. "Small towns are about connection," she says. "Modern life is about loss of connection. As our connective tissue as a community becomes perhaps, non-existent, we long for the kind of connective tissue that holds a small town together. "I love the old hymn, 'Blessed be the tie that binds.' Small towns have ties that bind. Of course, the downside of that is that a lot of people know your business. But we don't take care of each other very much, and we have to get back to those connections and care about each other." As for her characters, she says they are not really based on real people. "They are compilation of everyone I've seen since I was a very young child. I started observing people as a very young child. Fred came out of the recesses of the old past." She says the character Fred in this book recites a poem that an uncle of hers recited when she was young. Somehow, it just popped up in this book. It is found on page 313: "Onesall, twosall Ziggesall zan Bob tail winnepeg Tinklum tan Harum Scarum Virgin Mary Cinklum Sanklum Warsh an' a buck!" This is the last book in the series, but Karon is not sorry to be leaving Mitford behind. "Timing is everything and it's important to leave at the right time so there is no residue of sorry," she says. "Also, I know I'm going to be hanging out with someone I like. Father Tim is trustworthy, amiable; he can be witty and he's a romantic." So what's next for Father Tim? "I'm taking him to Holly Springs, Miss., to his home town. In this first book, he will be given a gift that will nearly cost him everything. This book is going deep into his childhood and early years stuff with his father. I just don't know who all the characters are. "I knew Father Tim was from the south, but didn't know where. So I got down on my hands and knees with this big map and began to eliminate one state after another. He's not from Georgia, that's not the right accent. And North Carolina wasn't right. Eventually, I decided on Mississippi. And then I looked for towns with music in their names. And, in the northeast corner of the state, not far from Memphis is Holly Springs, Miss. So, that's the place."

Excerpts

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