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Interview: September 21, 2017

Kaira Rouda is a USA TODAY bestselling, multiple-award-winning author of contemporary fiction. Her latest novel, BEST DAY EVER, is a psychological thriller about a married couple whose planned romantic weekend at their lake house is far from being the “best day ever” that Paul Strom had promised his wife, Mia. In this interview conducted by Carol Fitzgerald, the president and co-founder of The Book Report Network, Rouda talks about what inspired her to write her first work of psychological suspense, why the dinner scene is one of her favorite parts of the book, how social media has contributed toward the feeling of what is “perfect,” and her personal connection to Ohio, where the novel takes place. Every book has a genesis --- the moment when the idea for it springs alive. What spurred you to write BEST DAY EVER?

Kaira Rouda: Paul Strom, the book’s narrator, popped into my mind, fully formed, while I was in the middle of edits for the first book of a new women’s fiction series. His voice was so singular, such an unforgettable blend of charming and unsettling, that I had no choice but to drop everything and write his story.

BRC: Your setup to the story is completely romantic. Many readers will be swooning from the start at the fabulous plans that Paul has for his wife. How much fun did you have plotting those little details for the romantic couple getaway?

KR: Oh, I love romantic weekends! It’s so fun to plan the perfect getaway, isn’t it? And, as with most vacations, things typically don’t go according to plan.

BRC:There is a desire in people for the “perfect life,” though it may be an illusion. I think if Mia had described what Paul had planned for her, her friends on social media would have been swooning. How do you think social media has contributed toward the feeling of what is “perfect”?

KR: Great question. I completely agree that social media has made us all a little bit more perfect than we are. On our public platforms, we can portray the perfect husband, the perfect home, kids, life. We all know nothing is what it seems, but we’re all drawn to that illusion. We want to believe it, and most of us want it for ourselves. Mia would have posted a beautiful photo of her garden at their cottage by the lake, with the caption: “Can’t wait to see my strawberries!”

BRC: There is a saying that “no one really knows what goes on in a marriage.” And BEST DAY EVER really shows truth to that idea. Is this one of the underlying themes that you were trying to explore?

KR: Absolutely. The entire notion that no one actually knows what goes on behind closed doors of seemingly perfect lives is the theme all of my novels share. Couples promise to love, honor and cherish, but what happens when it’s not working, either because of forces outside your control, or because of the person sharing your bed? BEST DAY EVER takes the theme to its darkest reaches.

BRC: Paul’s character only speaks in the first person. It’s perfect given his ego-centric personality. One can assume that this was intentional, but I still want to raise the question: Was Paul always written in first person?

KR: Oh yes. He popped into my mind and started talking.

BRC: Along those lines, was it a challenge to write from a male point of view?

KR: Surprisingly, it wasn’t. It’s fun, and freeing. It’s great to push your mind creatively, and Paul definitely did.

BRC: There is a moment during their dinner when the dialogue is so tight that readers will be racing through the pages (not that they won’t in other parts of the book). When you are writing, do you lay down a string of dialogue (like the track in a song) to get your ideas down and then start enhancing it, or do you work through each section in depth as you write?

KR: I don’t outline, and this story was no different. I just work through each section as I write. The dinner scene is one of my favorites in the book. I’m a former waitress, and I love setting scenes in restaurants. I particularly enjoyed adding the perspective of the server, and I love the atmosphere provided by the reflection in the windows, the dark harbor, the edge of candlelight.

BRC: At the start, readers see glimpses of who Paul really is. Did you want to set them up to feel protective towards Mia at a time when he was irritated by her?

KR: I wanted readers to understand who they were dealing with from the beginning. For as charming as he can be, Paul is not a nice guy. And yes, he is irritated with his wife. But all couples have tension at times. The question is, where should your sympathies really lie?

BRC: Is Paul a sociopath, a psychopath, or something else on the psychological spectrum? How did you research his character disorder?

KR: I decided early on in the writing process that I’d leave the formal diagnosis to the professionals. I will say I researched malignant narcissists while I was writing. I even ended up in a chat room for survivors of narcissistic relationships. Even there, narcissists were posting, defending themselves as if their victims were wrong. It was pretty unbelievable --- a reaction that Paul will, I suspect, engender often in his reader.

BRC: Plotting clearly had to be very careful for the story to unfold as brilliantly as it did. How did you handle the plotting? Was it mapped carefully in advance?

KR: I kept a list of Paul’s lies. I had to because he’d toss them out as I was writing. And then he’d add more to a lie, so I’d write that down. For example, I didn’t know why he was talking about green beans at first, but I felt he was lying about them.

BRC: Do you have a personal connection with Ohio, where the book takes place? If not, why did you set it there?

KR: I do. I met and married my husband in Columbus, where he was born and raised. We actually went to the same high school in Upper Arlington, Ohio (the model for the suburb of Grandville) but didn’t know each other. We raised all four kids in Ohio, in Upper Arlington, and we had a cottage at Lakeside, on Laurel. So yes it’s a personal connection and filled with wonderful memories. I didn’t even realize Lake Erie could sound sinister (eerie) until a reviewer pointed that out. To me, these places are home.

BRC: This is your first work of psychological fiction. What inspired this change in genre? After BEST DAY EVER, are you primed to write more thrillers?

KR: I suppose to date I’m best known for my works of women’s fiction, but I actually did publish a suburban suspense novel, ALL THE DIFFERENCE, a few years before the genre really took off. And even in my other earlier novels, there tends to be threads of suspense. That said, BEST DAY EVER is definitely my darkest and most suspenseful novel to date. And having grown up on Nancy Drew and Susan Isaacs, I’m excited to be venturing further into the psychological suspense arena with future books.

BRC: What are you working on now, and when can readers expect to see it?

KR: I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but I will say it’s another work of psychological suspense, with characters I hope will resonate with readers every bit as much as Paul does, and twists I’m having a great time plotting. Check my website,, for updates on the title and release date coming soon!