Skip to main content

Diverse Voices Grand Prize Winner on her Successes and Learnings

By August 8, 2016No Comments

Karen Rouse's thrilling and unique Grand Prize winning television show takes place in the heart of San Francisco as a cryptographer and her team hunt down an emerging Zodiac-style serial killer while running an upmarket sex toy store to fund their investigation. Karen’s voice jumps right off the page and the pilot is unlike anything currently on television – in all the right ways.

What's the most important or unique part of your writing process?

Getting involved. I watch as many TV shows and films about the subject that I can. I read everything and anything related online. I make soundtracks on my laptop that inspire the tone of the script. You need to fully immerse yourself to get the best results.

How do you pick the stories that you ultimately write?

I write about what intrigues me. I got the initial idea for Foxy Naught because I love puzzles. It started with anagrams then developed into ciphers. But then it developed into a personal story that I wanted to tell myself. The theme of survivor guilt is still relatively untouched and something that I believe deserves to be highlighted.

Why did you choose to enter Diverse Voices? Where were you when you found out that you had won?

Gut instinct. I fell into the criteria for the writers’ category but then my characters also fell into the category for the script requirements.

I was in Hyde Park in London when I found out that I had won. I actually didn’t check the results – that’s nothing new, I often leave it for hours, even a day or two because I get so nervous! I found out when Mark e-mailed me to say congratulations. I didn’t believe it so I phoned a friend to check the announcement online for me.

Why do you feel that diversity in entertainment is important?

Shonda Rhimes summed it up entirely when she said, “I have a different word: NORMALIZING. I’m normalizing TV.”

Who inspires your writing? Who inspires you?

Everyone and everything – watching TV, sitting in the park, at a restaurant, at the movies. I’m currently listening to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album again. The lyrics are incredible.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

The best piece of advice that I ever received was not given to me verbally. I studied Modern Drama at college in London and specialized in scriptwriting during my final year. Each week I had a meeting with my personal tutor, who would literally draw lines through pages of my work. At first, I felt like crying but, after a while, I started to toughen up. I would write for a week and then she would dutifully draw lines through half of it.

Over time, I realized just how much of my writing was improving as a result of her editing. It taught me something very important early on – be passionate about your writing – but don’t be precious about it.

What's your favorite movie or TV show? What about the writing of that show makes it stand out? What can writers learn from it?

There is so much great TV now that it is impossible to pick a single show. I’m going to pick three of my current favorites – How to Get Away with Murder, American Crime and Orange is the New Black.

American Crime – the writing and acting are outstanding. I love the rep-theatre style of bringing the same actors into the next season to play different parts and they do it brilliantly.

Orange is the New Black – I usually watch this when I’m tucked up in bed because, not only is it wonderful, but it brings a certain comfort with it. I also fully support the need to recognize dramedy as a category in itself.

How to Get Away with Murder – this show is so much fun. I love twists and turns and flashbacks and forwards. Also, they make a good case for a new category of Best Actor in a Dead Role.

What other successes have you had as a writer – big or small?

I wrote a spec script of The Closer that won the drama category at My Criminal Minds spec placed highly at Scriptapalooza TV and other contests. The first draft of Foxy Naught was a runner-up at the Nashville Film Festival.

What did your writing look like 5 years ago and what will your writing look like 5 years from now?

Five years ago I was focused on writing TV specs to really study the technique. I wrote specs for The Closer, CSI, House M.D., Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Criminal Minds.

Five years from now, I’d like to see one of my shows on TV (who wouldn’t?) or at least be staffed on something original and engaging.

*Photo Credited to Steve Freestone (