Although three-time Emmy Award winner Karen Schaler’s career banks so heavily on Christmas cheer today, her past is nothing like the popular movies she’s written.
Before writing movies such as Netflix’s “A Christmas Prince,” she was a hardened war correspondent embedded in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones.
Schaler, who most recently wrote the holiday novel “Finding Christmas,” told CTV’s Your Morning she now considers war reporting as “her old life.”
In 1995, then-investigative reporter Schaler was embedded with troops in Bosnia for about a month; and in 2007, she travelled with U.S. troops in Afghanistan. “I always wanted to tell the stories of the soldiers and the real stories behind the scenes,” she said, calling her experiences with them, “amazing.”
But when she’d come out of the war zones, she always looked forward to the Christmas movies and novelsshe considered to be a “safe escape.”
Although she had devoted her life to reporting, after a health issue forced her to take a couple weeks off work she decided to give screenwriting a shot, according to an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Holiday films were “just something I could dive into and just forget about all the negative things in the world. So when I got the opportunity, I thought, ‘I want to give back, they’ve brought me so much joy.’”
Schaler, who’s now better known as “Christmas Karen,” has written three successful holiday-themed films: “Christmas Camp,” “Every Day is Christmas” starring singer Toni Braxton and Netflix’s “A Christmas Prince.”
While the story for that last film was inspired by Schaler’s own experiences as a travel journalist in Wales, she says a lot of her ideas for storylines can be traced back to her childhood: “It’s what I wanted as a little girl, what I wanted for Christmas.”
In her holiday movies, she said that Christmas “is not just a character, it’s the star.”
“What story am I going to tell? And I try and bring in the experiences I’ve had: family, community, love and mix them all together and come up with something –hopefully — magical.”
She now boasts of films which have ended up on Netflix, Hallmark, and Lifetime Christmas. She said the key to writing a Christmas movie is leaning on the idea that audiences find comfort in a familiar formula.
These can include the standard cute-meet (where the romantic leads meet in a cute way), having obstacles to a couple’s love, one of the leads either loving or hating Christmas, a character discovering the meaning of the season and of course, near-miss kisses.
“It’s what people want,” Schaler said, citing the political and economic troubles so many people around the world want escape from. Finding ways to tell stories for those audiences is a challenge she loves, especially as a writer able to “find different twists” in those age-old formulas.