Hi Cara I am so happy to have you today as my guest. I am thrilled to learn from you so many things about your book and work, and about just becoming an Author. I know that like me, you published your first novel, and you are working hard on promoting it.
Revital: When was the first time you realized you were an Author? What did it feel like?
Cara Bertoia :
The road to my novel was a long journey with lots of twist and turns much like a good story. After I graduated college I got a job teaching high school in North Carolina. Well, on a summer break I drove across country with two friends and we all got jobs in a casino in Lake Tahoe. Tahoe was a beautiful place and casino jobs were the best ones, especially dealing. They all went home and I stayed. I worked at Caesars Palace for a few years but then I moved to the North Shore of the Lake. The place I worked at was an old school casino. It had been a rat pack hangout in the old days and even now autographed photos of movie stars adorn the walls. The casino sat right on the lake and as I dealt I looked out at a beautiful view of the crystal blue water. The border between Nevada and California ran through the middle of the casino. The owner was a plumbing contractor from Fresno. The head of security was an ex-Mossad officer and every few weeks we would be strapped down and given lie detector tests. They let porn movies be filmed in the casino and there were rumors that he rigged the slot machines. I’m not sure if that was true but he did manage to get his casino closed down by the Nevada gaming commission, no small feat. One day a sports agent with Hollywood connections played on my game and encouraged me to write down all my great casino stories. That was the day I became a writer, well my script got as far as HBO where it was promptly rejected but that didn’t matter, I was a writer. A year later I went back to the real world and became a systems analyst by day, writer by night. I lived in Boston, the home of perpetual students and so I was able to take writing classes and join critique groups and get better. After a few years I began working on an MA in writing at Emerson because it had connections in Hollywood. Well, just before I was scheduled to intern in Los Angeles as a script reader I got the opportunity to join Princess Cruises as a croupier. My choice was spend my dwindling savings on an internship or get paid to see the world. I wasn’t scared of going only staying. The Germans have a word for it torschlusskpanik, the fear of missing the boat.
Revital: Please tell us a little about your personal experience on ships, how did this experience impact your writing?
Cara Bertoia :
I stayed at sea for five years and I would like to say that I wrote every day but I didn’t. I spent those years soaking up all the history I could. The ship was my home and the crew bar was my living room and the nights I spent there were research since I planned to tell the story of all my crewmates some day. And then on my last contract I met Ray and my novel became a love story and that surprised me more than anyone. After we settled in Palm Springs, I began my book. I had written most of it when I decided to test it out by taking a novel writing class at UCLA. One of the exercises in the class was to try out five opening lines, well the whole class voted for my current opener. My professor liked it so much she became my first editor. I started it in first person, but when I decided to include Ray we switched to third person. Ray’s adventures dealing around the world were just too good to leave out, and I really wanted to include the male point of view. Third person gave me a much better feel for the characters. It made them come alive. But that meant another round of editing. In fact we have edited the book a hundred times and still we find small errors. But that is the hard work of writing getting it as good as you can and for me that meant rewriting until every word felt right.
Revital: Please tell us about your book, what are your favorite parts? What brought you to write it?
Cara Bertoia :
I had been single for a very long time, and as you have already read I had spent time studying writing before I went to sea. After all my experiences across the globe how could I not write a book? I love the fact that it is my story but 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 we 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. 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 taking 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 descriptions of the places we visited and the adventures we encountered really resonated with them. Each chapter is like a trip to a different country. For instance one time 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 since that is also in the 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.
Revital: How did writing change your life (or did it not?)
Cara Bertoia :
The great thing about promoting this book is that I really feel like an author now. I have made great author friends such as you. It is great to be part of a community that supports each other’s work. This new world of e-books is so great, because you can sell books to anyone across the world. It is such a thrill to read reviews of my book from people that I have never met. The other day a reader told me that my book was good for his business, he was a travel agent. I love checking my blog stats, the other week my blog was read by 15 people in Latvia. Latvia how did they find it? Every day is a new adventure.
Revital: Are you working on another novel? What is it about? When do you assume it will be done?
Cara Bertoia :
Right now Ray and I are concentrating on our blog http://tablegamesconfessions.blogspot.com/ I have seen articles from our blog get picked up and spread throughout the internet. Our blog is intended to help punters new to gambling learn a little bit about casinos before they even walk through the door. I think that people like to read about your background and then they have a good idea about the authenticity of your work. We are looking to expand our blog into a guide sometime in the future. Now I am concentrating on promoting this book. It took so many years to write it that I want to send it out into the world properly. Thanks so much Revital for featuring me on your blog.