Excerpt from Cruise Quarters - A Novel About Casinos and Cruise Ships

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When people sat down at Sarah Seldon’s blackjack game, they always wanted to talk about The Book. “Should I double down? Should I hit? Dealer, I know you’re a gambler; you could let me win if you wanted to. What does the book say?” She had never read this book, this mythical Bible for gamblers. The truth is there are 2256 books, each teaching its own foolproof winning system. But Sarah had been in the casino business long enough to think with a gambler’s mind. Gamblers knew they could follow all the rules of basic strategy, utilize money management and still lose if they weren’t dealt the right cards. The allure and curse of gambling was that there were no sure things. In the end it all came down to luck; gamblers prayed that Lady Luck would show up and that she would stick around for awhile.

#1 Cruise Ship Novel at Amazon

#1 Cruise Ship Novel at Amazon

Thursday, September 8, 2011


This week I am happy to present Marita Hansen, and her highly praised novel set in New Zealand. In my years on cruise ships I visited New Zealand many times, a chapter in my novel is even set there. It is a beautiful country filled with the friendliest people I have ever met. Many times the casino staff doubled as tour guides, giving me the chance to visit the Maori community in Rotorua, so I was aware of the social tensions that exist in New Zealand. Like Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby or Push by Sapphire, this novel is a graphic look at life in a South Auckland suburb. The novel vividly describes the life led by a group of young adults. Now I will let Marita tell you how this novel came to life.

Behind the Hood is a realistic portrayal of a rough town in New Zealand. I remember when I first put part of it up on Youwriteon and Authonomy (writers websites) people were genuinely shocked and told me that they had no idea New Zealand had these types of places, because it is often portrayed as clean, green and safe.  But, from Auckland to New York, London to Melbourne, we all have our problematic areas.

Another thing that people asked about was why I chose to write about the Maori people. Originally this took me by surprise, and still has me tongue-tied at times, because I never really considered that I was specifically writing about one culture. Instead, it was the settings that influenced my story. This was because at first I had intended on writing a fantasy piece set in Singapore, but changed it because it wasn’t working. And when I placed it in one of my old neighbourhoods in South Auckland, the story suddenly took off and morphed into realism.

                                      The author Marita Hansen.

However, the settings do not alter the fact that my novel is very much character driven, which is another reason why I don’t believe my book is just about the Maori. Instead it’s about New Zealanders from areas like Claydon (based on Clendon Park). Although there are a number of Maori characters, there are also others that aren't, like Rory and Stella, as well as her bunch of friends from West Auckland. Also, Jess and Saul are Samoan, while the Connor family are Irish and Cook Island Maori (which is different from New Zealand Maori). Plus, the characters that have Maori in them also have other nationalities, such as seen in Dante's tattoos. He has both Slavic writing and Maori designs, which reflects his Croatian and Maori heritage. I added this in because there are both Maori and Croatians in my family, which is quite common in the upper part of the North Island. It's a place where a lot of Croatians (from the Dalmatian coast) came to dig gum. And because of how well the Dalis (a nickname) got on with the Maori there were intermarriages. So, again, this isn't a Maori story, this is a New Zealand story.

I have also had people mention Once Were Warriors. Although I touch on similar topics, my book isn't the same and is written very differently. Not only are the styles nothing alike, but Once Were Warriors focuses on one family, and was set in Rotorua (while the movie was set in Otara). In contrast my book encompasses a number of families. Once Were Warriors was also from a different generation. Although it was published and made into a movie in the 90s, the mention of Jake’s slave ancestry suggests that it was set further back.

But, as I said, my novel does touch on similar topics as Alan Duff's.  Domestic violence, suicide, gangs, abuse, crime, and so forth are all portrayed, which shows that these problems have spanned a number of generations.

And because of the crime in my story I had to do a bit of research, such as finding out about the effects of drugs and how a stabbing would feel. I also had to research hospital procedures, because a number of scenes were done there. But other than these, my book largely relied upon what I was familiar with, such my understanding of certain characters as well as the area portrayed. Like any author I incorporated traits from people that I have met as well as some of my own. For example, Maia’s grinning when in trouble is something I do.

                                       Korcula on the Dalmatian Coast

Lastly, although I portrayed the harsher side of life in New Zealand there are MANY areas that are absolutely lovely. I love my country and have missed it intensely since moving to Singapore (due to my husband's work). Though, Singapore is a fantastic place, and I do enjoy travelling and experiencing other cultures. Outside of New Zealand and Singapore, I have been to Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the old Yugoslavia before it split into separate countries. In particular I visited Croatia as I have family there, plus I also travelled to Slovenia and climbed Mount Triglava. I went there on the cusp of my sixteenth birthday. And if I had to choose a place that I most enjoyed travelling to, it would be the gorgeous island of Korcula (on the Dalmatian Coast). However, my favourite place in the world is a little town called Howick in East Auckland (New Zealand). The beaches are fantastic and it holds lots of good memories.

                                         Howick on the New Zealand Coast

Thank you, Cara, for this opportunity, as well as the readers. Take care.


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