You won’t like Paul Strom in Kaira Rouda’s latest novel, Best Day Ever. He will do his best to convince you. You watch him shower, Mia, his wife with a playlist of romantic music, a weekend getaway, and plans to make their day together the best ever. But something will gnaw at you, until you realize Paul Strom’s life is about unravel in the most unexpected ways.
What was it like to live with Paul Strom? Did you resist this novel, this narrator after it came to you?
It’s interesting. Paul popped into my head, demanding to tell his story. I don’t wish living with Paul on anyone – author or fictional character. But, I do have to say, as an author, the story came out fast and it was right for me to write. I’ve spent much of my life opposing men like Paul. Maybe it was cathartic? Maybe it was just a good story for me to tell? It’s sad but almost universally true, as women, we’ve encountered men like Paul. It may be a benign encounter, an uncomfortable feeling, or he can appear as a charming boyfriend. They are charming, loving, and everything you dream they are, until they’re not. And when they’re not, they’re terrifying. I may have encountered a Paul. Have you?
How did your work as a journalist influence the writing of Best Day Ever?
When I was a young reporter, working for the city magazine, I pitched a story to my editor. The governor at the time had just recognized domestic violence as a defense, and on his last day in office, pardoned women who had been convicted of murder who should have been able to enter a domestic violence plea. It was a transformative experience. (article reflection here: https://www.facebook.com/kaira.rouda/posts/10155706296819439?notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic¬if_id=1505453836821270
But even more than meeting these women, who had to kill their lovers, their husbands, in self defense, are the hundreds of thousands of women who suffer with this on a daily basis. They’re in hospital emergency rooms, in shelters, or, in many cases, still in marriages they cannot escape. Yet. My heart and soul and words are committed to empowering women. It’s what I hope my legacy is, and, believe it or not, I hope BEST DAY EVER is another manifestation of that.
I’m sure some women will resonate with Mia and her experience. What should someone in a position like that do, especially if they lack Mia’s resources?
I need to say I’m not an expert in any way on this subject and many people are. I’ve been a volunteer at domestic violence shelters, started a shelter for homeless families which was a refuge for many women fleeing domestic abuse, and I am passionately ready to research, write and tell stories for women who cannot. What should someone do in Mia’s position? Exactly what Mia did. Get out. There are resources in all major cities to help you. There are national hotlines ready to give you advice and counsel. Start here: http://www.thehotline.org
There are a lot of steps women like Mia can take, no matter their financial resources, to outsmart their abusers. I don’t want to say that Mia’s way is the right path…but some of her ideas are brilliant, just saying. It’s not about resources, although of course money helps. It’s about believing in yourself and knowing it’s him, or you. And choosing yourself is one of life’s most validating, important moves.
Clearly, Best Day Ever is a relative term. What would be the best day ever for you?
I’m so fortunate to be living the life of my dreams. I dreamed of living at the beach, writing novels, surrounded by my kids and my puppies, and gosh, I’m not kidding when I say I pinch myself and think, I’m living my best life ever.
Best Day Ever is a relative term. Nobody has a perfect day, life, anything. It’s when you realize your gifts, if you’re able to freely express your thoughts and dreams with a partner who respects and supports you, well, that’s the best to me. And please, if you’re reading this, and know you need to get out, you can. Life is too short not to reach for the stars.
What’s next for you as an author?
Hopefully, another suspense novel. Hopefully one that will challenge emotions , but I guarantee it will be one without a strong, male character talking to you. I can only take guys like Paul every so often without putting him in his place.