Karen Schaler is often called “Christmas Karen.” In the last three years, she wrote five Christmas movies, including the Netflix hit A Christmas Prince and four Christmas novels.
Before the Pandemic, this three-time Emmy Award-winning writer was all set to carry her joyful Christmas Karen legacy. But then, when the world changed, Schaler shifted too. She found new unique ways to pay it forward to try and bring some much-needed holiday happiness and hope.
“Originally, I couldn’t wait for 2020 to start,” says Schaler. “I was in development for two new movies and I was planning more Christmas Camps around the world, bringing my original Hallmark Christmas Camp movie and books to life.”
If that wasn’t enough, her next Christmas novel, Christmas Ever After was also scheduled to come out and she was starting a new season of her Travel Therapy TV show. But when COVID-19 hit that changed everything. When her movies, travel show, and Christmas Camp experiences were all put on hold, Schaler was forced to make a defining decision about her publishing career.
“I thought I knew the publishing path I was on,” shares Schaler. “I felt so grateful that my first three books came out with HarperCollins, and for my next book I was also getting multi-book offers from some of the most respected publishers in the world.”
But then the pandemic turned the publishing world upside down. Instead of publishing her novel this year as planned, everyone wanted to wait until 2021. In the meantime, Schaler says that people were reaching out hoping her next Christmas novel would be released early, saying they needed a positive, uplifting escape.
“I felt like if I waited a year to publish I would be letting people down,” Schaler explains. “But to make sure Christmas Ever After could still come out this year it meant doing the unimaginably daunting task of starting my own publishing company, in the middle of a pandemic, under quarantine, while also battling a life-threatening family health issue and writing another Christmas movie under a tight deadline.”
Schaler says she was warned by publishers and publicists that going out on her own was a huge risk and that her novel likely wouldn’t get reviewed. But that didn’t stop her. Her goal for Christmas Ever After was to center it around giving back. And the support the Ingram Content Group, the largest book distributor in the world, was instrumental. Schaler was invited into a special program for best-selling authors.
“Karen is part of a group of forward-thinking authors reinventing how to publish and promote a book. I’m thrilled we can help with that journey,” says Justine Bylo, Author Acquisitions Manager, at IngramSpark Pro.
Schaler’s fourth book, Christmas Ever After, was just released this week under her new company, HawkTale Publishing. The book received a Publishers Weekly review saying Christmas Ever After had “A wonderfully festive setting…The cast is charming and the atmosphere’s enchanting.”
“Once I shifted my thinking and stopped looking at all the roadblocks and focused instead on how I could use this book to give back, it fueled me forward,” says Schaler. “I’ve set up to donate a percentage of each book sold to help uplift struggling libraries and independent bookstores.”
But this was just the first step in Schaler’s mission. While waiting to see if she could safely still offer her Christmas Camps, she started offering free virtual “Christmas Karen Chats,” for libraries, bookstores, community groups and anyone who needs a little extra holiday cheer.
“I feel like it’s never been more important to connect with each other right now and let people know they’re not alone and that we’re all in this together. My virtual events can be as simple as a Zoom call where I answer questions about writing Christmas movies and novels, or hosting a book club, or helping people have their own DIY Christmas Camps at home,” says Schaler. “I’m connecting with people all over, from tiny towns to major cities. We’re having so much fun, celebrating, laughing, sharing. And isn’t that what the holidays are supposed to be about, family, friends, communities coming together to help each other.”
Schaler is also giving back by creating and hosting a new show and podcast Christmas Karen: Behind the Story. In each episode Schaler takes audiences behind the scenes making Christmas movies, talking to the writers, directors, actors, and authors, who share their own inspiring stories and uplifting life advice.
In one of her interviews she talked to Jeff Fisher, the director of her Christmas Camp Hallmark movie. “The thing is, Karen is like Christmas in human form!” says Fisher. “She’s got this positive energy and enthusiasm that feels like a hit of good holiday vibes. On Karen’s show you talk about what it takes to realistically get a movie or tv show made. It’s fun and refreshing and feels authentic and you get caught up talking about all things positive and holiday centric—and you somehow forget the current news cycle. Which doesn’t feel like Christmas so much!”
Schaler has found it empowering to share these inspiring stories. Actually, the Christmas spirit is in her blood. “My great aunt is in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! for being born on Christmas Day and was legally named “Merry Christmas Day,” says Schaler. “So, I have a lot to live up to. I’m just trying to do my small part, whatever I can do, taking it one day at a time.”