Writer Kaira Rouda might be mistaken for a pop culture Orange County housewife and some of the characters in her novels might be kissing cousins. However Rouda is Midwestern born and even-tempered, so even the worst of her characters are more in need of redemption than condemnation.
A full lineup of mildly dysfunctional types fill the pages of her fourth women’s fiction, “The Goodbye Year,” published this week by SparkPress. The title relates to high school senior year when adolescents take their first tentative steps toward adulthood and parents behave badly under threat of an empty nest.
“Marriages are vulnerable when kids are no longer part of the equation – everything shifts,” says Rouda.
This may be the most personal of Rouda’s novels. The last of her four children took off last September and she says with a smile that she and husband, Harley, chief executive of Trident Holdings, an investment firm, have had to hit the reset button on their marriage as well.
“I was pregnant five months after my wedding so we hardly ever lived without kids,” says Rouda.
The novel earned a spot on Redbook Magazine’s list of the top 20 books for spring and endorsements from a handful of well-known writers in her genre.
Rouda likes to write about people behind the doors of what she refers to as so-called suburban perfection. She says no one in the book is anyone specific but everyone is someone, or a composite, of real people. This tale includes a high-profile plastic surgeon, a mom obsessed with her son’s college prospects, a star student making up for her mother’s discontent, another using promiscuity to salve her family wounds, and more than one marital infidelity threatening scandal. All set in an idyllic community called Crystal Cove filled with Laguna landmarks, including a neighborhood named Diamond Bay. Rouda lives in Emerald Bay.
Her first book, published in 2008 and still in print, was a women’s empowerment guide entitled “Real You Incorporated,” which has since been extended to include titles on parenting and writing.
“Once I advised women to pursue their passions, I realized it was my turn,” says Rouda.
She made the switch from real estate marketing to full time writer in 2011 and has published 13 books since – four women’s fiction, one story collection, and eight romance novels. She also blogs and pens articles on parenting for Woman’s Day Magazine, most recently a Mother’s Day piece on the empty nest.
As a sign of success, Rouda has been selected for the newest internet publishing empire: Amazon Kindle Worlds. An offshoot of fanfiction, also known as fic, amateur and professional writers submit stories that take off from the works of other writers. From romance and erotica to science fiction and mystery, tales are based on an existing book series, TV show or comic.
Heard of it? If you haven’t, you will. Fanfiction is the fastest growing form of internet publishing, according to vulture.com, a culture trend watching e-zine. Some writers, like the literary storyteller Annie Proulx, are reportedly incensed to find her characters in bizarre settings. Even Star Trek fans might object to fics depicting Captain Kirk in an erotic relationship with Dr. Spock.
Amazon has restricted the use of original characters, as well as pornography and gratuitous violence.
In July, Kindle Worlds will launch Kaira Rouda’s Laguna Beach. She has also been invited to contribute to Melanie Shawn’s Hope Falls series, where everyone who comes to town has a “happily ever after” ending. A good fit as Rouda knows how to realize her own happy endings.
“The Goodbye Year” launch party will be held at Laguna Beach Books Thursday, May 12, at 6 p.m., accompanied by empty nest libations prepared by Sarah Vanderveen.
Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who publishes book reviews for www.ocinsite.com. Her new novel is “Signs of Life.”