Karen Janszen has loved writing since childhood. After studying anthropology through graduate school at Harvard, she worked as a science journalist, helping develop television shows for Boston pubcaster WGBH.
Eventually, though, Janszen decided she wanted to write fiction — specifically screenplays. She attended the American Film Institute, then won the Chesterfield fellowship, a prestigious screenwriting award.
The screenplay for which she won this honor, “Digging to China,” was made into a feature starring Kevin Bacon; it was the directorial debut of Timothy Hutton. That led to scripting assignments including “Free Willy 2,” “The Matchmaker” and an episode of “From the Earth to the Moon” that focused on the wives of the Apollo astronauts.
Currently, Janszen is working with producer Denise Di Novi on an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel “A Walk to Remember.”
Janszen also enjoys working on spec, and on her own has written such screenplays as “Act Normal” and “Weightless.” “I write every day, even if nobody’s paying me,” she says. When working on spec, she can stretch her craft and herself in ways she might not be able to on assignment.
“After doing ‘Digging to China’ and ‘Free Willy 2,’ I had to work at moving out of the children’s movie thing,” she says. “That’s why I wrote ‘Act Normal’ and ‘Weightless’ — to show an adult voice.”
The stories Janszen writes most often are fueled by an idea for a character and by a desire to spend more time with the peo-ple she has created.
“I’m interested in people that are outsiders, people that don’t know how to fit in and struggle with that,” she says. “I just feel so lucky to be able to work and make a living at what I love doing.”