BE MY GUEST: Author Interview: Cara Bertoia

Today, I am thrilled to host Cara Bertoia, co-author of an amazing travel novel which is as much about romance as it is about travel (the novel is based on their real-life love story). So read on to find out more about the book “Cruise Quarters” and how she met the man of her dreams. You would not want to miss infectious laugh on her witty answers as a bonus! :)

RG: Tell us about yourself and your love for traveling.

I have always loved to travel. Ever since I was a little girl my favorite hobby was reading novels about far away places, on a hot summer day I would be Mary Queen of Scots locked in the chilly London Tower. When I was in college I studied in Mexico for a semester and after that there was no holding me down. There is a German word for that feeling -- torschlusskpanik (the fear of missing the boat). In my case, literally.

RG: I understand that your book is about travel, yet it is a novel! Sounds interesting! Why did you think of penning down your travel anecdotes in the form of a novel and not in a non-fiction style travel narrative?

I just think that it worked better as a novel. I had to move things around and of course enhance things for dramatic effect and then I really couldn't call it non-fiction. I also had to change the names to protect us! My novel was written with the help of my husband Ray. I felt like I had a great story to tell, a true love story played out in some of the most beautiful ports in the world. And the fact that there was a happy ending surprised me more than anybody.

RG: Sounds interesting! What is different about “Cruise Quarters” as compared to other travel books available in the market? What do you think your book offers in terms of “originality” and “uniqueness”?

Well I know that my novel is the first written from the viewpoint of a female croupier, who has over a decade in the casino industry, we give the view from behind the blackjack table. My husband and I also worked on luxury liners for over a decade and so we take the reader behind the scenes of the casino and cruise ship industry. Ray also worked in European countries as diverse as Moscow and England. By shifting the story between us, we offer a story from both of our perspectives. My readers always comment that our description of the places we visited and the adventures we encountered really resonated with them.

RG: In your opinion, how is “going on a cruise” a better way to travel than by air or train?

I will give you a few of the top reasons: the views coming into port from the deck of a ship, not having to pack and unpack your bags, and going to sleep in a comfortable bed in Copenhagen and waking up in Stockholm. Those are just a few of the reasons. I just wrote a blog post on this as well called The Top Ten Reasons To Travel Around Europe on A Cruise Ship.

RG: Name some of the beautiful places that are covered in your book?

To me Venice is always the most beautiful place in the world. Of the many ports in the Caribbean we visited my favorite is St. Martin, an island that is half Dutch, half French, the mixture of the two cultures makes for an interesting island. Our book travels from Europe to the Caribbean, but just when think you can relax we cruise down the Amazon and on to Rio.

RG: Amazing! Your book offers a collage of European and American beauty. There is also a romantic element in your novel which is based on your real-life love story. Tell us how you meet Ray (any juicy tidbits we should know *winks*)

When I met Ray I was hung over, sitting on the floor of the hallway with my hair pinned on top of my head, no makeup, dressed in my crew bar\pajama outfit sorting mail. I saw a cute Scottish guy round the corner but I didn't give him a second look I had sworn off shipboard romances. He said he knew that we would be together from the second he met me, but read our book and you'll know he is just trying to score points.

RG: *laughs* So, it was “Love at first sight” (at least from his side *wink*). List 5 suggestions/writing tips for those who want to venture into writing non-fiction.

1. Do something interesting so that you will have something to write about, I was working on my MFA in writing before I joined ships, and I knew working on a cruise ship would be a great setting for a novel.

2. Read it out loud so you will know if your dialogue sounds right.

3. Do the research, because sometimes your memory can play tricks on you.

4. Be honest, no one is on their best behavior 24/7 and anyway the embarrassing parts are the best bits.

5. But most importantly if it is based on real people besides YOU make it fiction! You can avoid a lawsuit that way.

RG: Those are some extremely useful tips for all writers! Do you think that book blogs play a vital role in getting the books across to readers?

I have seen that articles from our blog get picked up and spread throughout the internet. I also think that people like to read about your background and then they have a good idea about the authenticity of your work. But I believe that the most important blogs are the ones like yours that work to spread the word about new books. With the demise of book reviews in newspapers I think blogs like “The Review Girl” fill that gap.

RG: How much time did it take for you to complete this book? What was your routine for writing?

It took years to write this book. I took notes while I lived at sea. I went to the crew bar every night - but only in the name of research. I started it in a class at UCLA and from there I wrote and re-wrote until I thought every line was perfect then I had my friends from the casino business and the cruise ship industry read it and I wrote some more. When one of my cruise ship friends read my novel, she immediately made copies for four of her friends. That day I knew I had nailed it.

RG: Are you inspired by any particular author? Who is your favorite author?

I really like Charles Bukowski, he made me see that you could write in a clear and concise way and still be entertaining. I also like Steve Martin he writes with a good understanding of human nature. Then there is Lionel Shriver who gives her writing a kick of cynicism. I could never pick one favorite author it changes all the time.

RG: I believe that there are only two categories of books: good books and bad books. In your opinion, what are the qualities of a “good book”?

A good book is easy to read, it entertains you and it just might teach you a little bit about life and human nature. I always like to get inside the head of the character I am reading about and I always hope she is not too nice.

Now, time for some fun questions:

RG: Favorite holiday destination.

I love all the old cities of Europe, Venice, London, Glasgow, my husband and I can walk for hours and just be entertained by the life passing by us. We love to walk and eat, that is why I was known as the food scout on ships. Whenever we cruised to a new city I would walk the streets until I found the perfect restaurant for the casino staff to go to.

RG: Favourite foreign cuisine.


RG: Tell us about the craziest thing you ever did while on a cruise.

The casino staff was locked up in a restaurant while the owner held us hostage demanding more money. I don't want to say too much, that is also in the book.

RG: Any place (romantic island or resort) which you recommend to newlyweds for honeymoon?

I'm American so I think Venice is the most romantic city in the world. Ray said Malta, he's Scottish, go figure. But for an island I would definitely say Bali.
Bali: Crystal clear blue water and tranquility, best place to visit for some romance!

RG: How do you relax when you have free time? 

In my free time I listen to political shows like The Daily Show, and Real Time. I also work out, but I hate that, just trying to be able to eat more. On our days off, when wanderlust hits us, we love to travel to San Diego and Los Angeles and just walk around, and of course eat!

RG: Complete these sentences:

* Love is...easy when it's done right.

* Life is...here and now, this not a dress rehearsal.

* Writing is...torture, rewriting is a blast.

* Travelling is...accepting where you are, for what it is and getting the most out of it.

RG: Your statement on writing is a debate in itself. For me, it is the other way around: writing is a blast but re-writing is a torture! *laughs* Thank you for such a lovely interview. It was a pleasure having you on my blog. Wish you all the best for your book. 

About the Book: 
Cruise Quarters - A novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

The # 1 cruise ship novel is a fun, fast paced tale of working in the casino aboard a Regal Cruises cruise-ship. It is based on a true story and was written by authors who have over a decade of experience working on luxury cruise ships.

Sarah Seldon is a croupier on the luxury liner. After many unhappy endings, and burnt out on shipboard romance, she is determined to forget about men and concentrate on becoming a casino manager. On land women face a dearth of GOOD men but on a ship giving up men would take willpower. The mostly male crew exist to serve her every need. Handsome Italian waiters bring her food, the Filipino steward cleans her room, English officers play poker with her and the Welsh plumber fixes her sink. She leads a cushy life, sleeping 'til noon, eating gourmet food, and the topper - she gets to wake up in beautiful new place everyday. All because she works in a casino, a place so bad it has SIN in the middle.

Book a cruise and travel with Sarah and the crew as they work, play, feast, and fall in and out of love, all while the ship sails around the globe, stopping at exotic ports of call. Along the way, from Venice to Barcelona sight-see in the Med, shop in St. Martin, take an eco-cruise down the Amazon, and feast in Glasgow. Let the crew tell you their own stories as they sit in the hallway in the wee hours of the morning. While the ship travels to new destinations, tired and tipsy they share tales of love and betrayal. – (Book Blurb Courtesy: Amazon.com)

Click the link to find at Amazon.com

Click the link to find at Amazon United Kingdom

Click the link to find at Amazon Germany

Click the link to find at Barnes and Noble

Click the link to find at Smashwords

The link to the paperback at Amazon.


To know more about the authors of this book, visit these blogs:



Do you like to read travel books? Are you a travel junkie like Cara? Do you have any interesting/fun incident to tell about your travels? Feel free to share in the comment section below. I would love to hear your thoughts.


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