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Bestselling Author Kaira Rouda to Open Keynote Speaker Series

By Kevin Greer
Lakeside Communications Manager

The Keynote Speaker Series was one of the most popular additions during Lakeside’s Sesquicentennial season in 2023. This year, the series returns and kicks off with award-winning USA Today and Amazon Charts bestselling contemporary fiction author Kaira Rouda at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13 in Hoover Auditorium. BUY PASSES & PARKING!

She will be joined onstage by her husband, former California congressman Harley Rouda.

“We like to banter and get the audience involved,” Kaira said. “I like to tell stories and we want to add some Lakeside memories, too.”

The former Lakeside cottage owner returns to the community after a five-year absence. Kaira was in town to promote her 2019 book, Best Day Ever, that is set in Lakeside. She led a golf cart tour of all the locations, but most had a different name in the book. She spent many summer days in Lakeside with her family before moving to California. She has always loved Lakeside but was concerned the community wouldn’t receive the book very well.

“I couldn’t imagine a more perfect setting for my really creepy guy in the book,” Kaira said. “Spoiler alert, he’s trying to kill his wife, and this was all going down in Lakeside. It was so fun when I came back. The bookstore hosted me, and everybody was excited to see which cottage I had set as (main characters) Paul and Mia’s. It was our old cottage.”

Introduction to Lakeside
Kaira was born in Evanston, Illinois, where her dad was a college professor at Northwestern University. After a couple other teaching stints, Ohio State University recruited him to be a chaired professor, so the family moved to Columbus, where she spent her middle and high school years.

A friend of hers married into a family who owned a Lakeside cottage for generations and she started visiting with them. She enjoyed it so much that she bought a cottage near Sypherd’s Cycles, then a second near her friends.

For their trip to Lakeside this summer, the Roudas rented a cottage and Kaira is hopeful that three of their four kids will join them. Their daughter got married in April and can’t fit it in her schedule, but she made a point of introducing her fiancé to Lakeside, because she wanted him to see where her fond memories are from.

“I’m looking forward to all of it when we get there,” Kaira said. “I love walking along the lake. That walk is the best. We’ll get donuts, of course. I love playing shuffleboard, but we have so many good memories in that whole park. As soon as I drive in the gate, I get flooded with all the memories. It’s just such a great community.”

Getting Started
After graduating with an English degree from Vanderbilt University, Kaira wanted to move to California, but followed her friends to Dallas. Her career aspirations were in marketing because she “loved Darrin in ‘Bewitched,’” or to become “the next great American novelist.”

After a year in Texas, she moved back to Columbus and became a reporter for Business First, where she covered advertising and public relations firms. It was there she earned her first byline. Business writing wasn’t something she was seeking, but it worked out early in her career.

“I just kind of happened,” Kaira said. “It was fun because they gave me some leeway and I loved writing for that editor. Magazine writing always appealed to me. That’s the area I focused on.”

Kaira went on to work at ad agencies, public relations firms and freelancing for other publications. She wrote television and radio spots and sold radio ads for a year.

“If you needed something written, I was writing it,” Kaira said.

Kaira worked at an ad agency where she had clients like McDonald’s and Stanley Steemer, which wooed her into working for them and eventually became the company’s first woman Vice President of Marketing.

Real Estate Career
Harley’s family had been in real estate since 1940s in Columbus. While Kaira was “on the sidelines” after leaving Stanley Steemer, her husband did a roll up of 14 Ohio real estate companies. They needed a brand to unite them and that led to the creation of Real Living. It was the first female-focused consumer brand and residential real estate that Kaira and Harley launched together in 2002 and it grew to more than 20 states.

“It was really fun because real estate was one of the first industries women can go in and make as much as or more than men,” Kaira said. “There’s no glass ceiling. I really loved working with these powerful women and help them form their brands and align with Real Living. It was a shift in how people think about it.”

The Roudas sold the real estate business to a Canadian firm just before the market crashed. In the meantime, Kaira wrote her first book, Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, which was about their experience. The book was so popular it led to Kaira’s first speaking tour across the country. One of the stops was in Austin, Texas, where a women asked, “Are you living the life of your dreams? Have you done everything you want to do?” Kaira responded, “No, I still want to write a novel.”

The Novelist
The Roudas moved to Malibu, California, and sold off the rest of their business to Warren Buffett. Harley still worked for the company, but Kaira was ready to strikethrough something that’s been on her list since third grade — write a novel.

“When the woman said that in Austin, we had just sold the business and I finally had some time for myself,” Kaira said. “All the kids were in school, so I’m like all right, let’s do this.”

Here, Home, Hope was her first novel and was released in 2011. The Next Wife, won two Silver Falchion Awards for Best Suspense Novel and was runner-up to Best Book of the Year. Eleven of her books have been published, including the release of Under the Palms, the sequel to Beneath the Surface.

In August, she’ll release a sequel to Best Day Ever, but the setting won’t be in Lakeside. Instead, the main character gets run out of Lakeside by the police. Since she had more time to write during the COVID shutdown, she will release one more book before the end of 2024.

One of the novels that generated a lot of talk was The Widow. It’s about a cheating Congressman who ends up dead.

“Harley loved the idea for the book,” Kaira said. “Anytime we’re doing a talk, and the book gets brought up, it always gets the biggest laughs. He says he sleeps with one eye open.”

While her books are fiction, there are some parts that are triggered by something that happens in real life. However, her novels are not based on true facts or real people.

“I think novelists take everything that’s happened, and it comes out somehow,” Kaira said. “I don’t think it’s one specific thing, it’s more like a collation of a lot of different life things.”

Up and coming director Alonzo Alvarez Bareda recently contacted Kaira about turning Beneath the Surface into a movie. Plans are in the early stages and a screenplay is currently being written.

“That was kind of like the other dream,” Kaira said. “To have someone from Hollywood say, ‘I want to make your book into a movie,’ and I’m like. ‘Get out of Dodge.’ We had a Zoom meeting with the production companies. It was so surreal.”

Kaira doesn’t plan on ending the drama anytime soon. She has more ideas and hopes to write several more novels.

“A great thing about being an author is you can really write anywhere, anytime,” Kaira said. “During your contract, you have deadlines, but you can also do it at your own pace.”

Shop for Kaira Rouda’s books at The Fine Print Lakeside.


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