Friday, September 9, 2011

Anyone Up For A Vicarious Vacation? Let Christi Barth Be Your Cruise Director!

As a writer, I find that the creative side of my brain never turns off completely, even on vacation. Or should I say especially on vacation. Something about travel fires up my neurons into overdrive. I guess it’s the sense of newness and possibility about someplace unfamiliar. This creative spurt is actually what started my writing career. Years ago I was on vacation with my husband in Charleston, walking down a cobblestone street lined with magnolias and oozing history. All of a sudden it hit me what a great setting the city would be for a novel. At the time I was on a romantic suspense kick, so I decided to write one (as with most things, the idea was far simpler than the actualization).

Fast forward two completed books and a few years, and I started to think about setting a book on a cruise ship (chalk it up to watching The Love Boat during my formative years). A cruise ship hits so many romantic stereotypes. You’ve got brilliant starlight, a balmy breeze, the gentle lap of the waves…and a feeling of absolute freedom from your everyday life. The setting makes it so easy to throw caution to the wind, give in to lust, and fall in love.

Coincidentally, my husband and I went on a cruise when I was only a few chapters into my new manuscript. Yes, I spent time lazing on a deck chair reading and hiking through a rain forest, but I also thought about my story constantly. Every deck, every shore excursion, every peek over the railing was another visual I wanted to cram into the manuscript. While the cruise ship itself was spectacular, I also fell in love with every stop we made. The Caribbean is a treasure trove of beautiful spots.

In my books, setting is very important, and often acts as another character. My goal is to transport my readers, and drown them in sensations and experiences. I want you to finish a chapter, look up, and be genuinely surprised that you’re in your living room, instead of walking along the walled city of San Juan, or snorkeling in St. Maartens. I mean, look at these pictures - how on earth could I choose a single location for my story? Well, I couldn’t. Instead I added an island-hopping scavenger hunt to the story, to give me an excuse to share with readers every single island I visited. It turned the story in a completely different direction, not to mention making it much harder to write, but I had to do it.

So my latest book, Cruising Toward Love, is meant to be a vicarious vacation for everyone who reads it. Enjoy the brilliant sun without getting burned, and the endless buffets without gaining a pound. Pour yourself a piƱa colada and dive into this blurb to get you started:

When her sister is left at the altar, small town librarian Zoe Balis jumps at the chance to take the bride’s unused ticket for the honeymoon cruise. But she didn't count on sharing a cabin with the man who broke her heart ten years ago!

Army medic Nate Hyatt never told Zoe goodbye when he enlisted - or the real reason why he dumped her on prom night after a year as high school sweethearts. And he never stopped dreaming about the girl he left behind. Could this voyage be his chance to fix the worst mistake he ever made? After all, a Caribbean cruise should be romantic… if he can convince her to move past ten years of bitterness and hurt.

Once aboard the luxury liner, Zoe befriends a bored Internet mogul with more heart than tact. Nate vents his problems to a ship’s photographer battling PTSD. The four team up on an island hopping treasure hunt. The stakes grow higher with each of Zoe’s mysterious brushes with death. They race to discover why she's a target and who's behind it, while still competing in the treasure hunt. Zoe’s never gotten over her first love, and is tempted to let Nate back into her life. But she already lost him once. She’s not willing to risk loving a man whose career keeps him in a combat zone. Can Nate breach her defenses and suture her broken heart? Grab a deck chair and see if they survive the stormy relationship seas as they cruise toward love!

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