Cruising and fiction: Roberta Aarons author of Slippers in the Oven

A novel idea: choose a cruise as the location for your next book

Roberta Aarons, an author based in London, has released her latest novel, ‘Slippers in the Oven‘.  This  tale of two sisters’ journey towards reconciliation and forgiveness is set on a cruise ship. The story sounds interesting enough, but what I was really excited to find out is the backstory about the cruise ship that served as inspiration for the author and the reason why Roberta chose cruising. Through her agent, I was able to interview Roberta, who explains her cruise experience and the inspiration for setting the book on a cruise.

As Roberta says, “I am a committed cruiser!”

Keep reading to learn more about Roberta’s unique cruise story.

'Slippers in the Oven' by Roberta Aarons
‘Slippers in the Oven’ by Roberta Aarons

Keep reading to discover how cruising played a significant role in determining the setting for Roberta’s new novel ‘

To be honest, I had never planned to be and was, like so many others, a touch derisive about people who cruise. It just all looked too easy, where was the adventure that travel is supposed to be about?

I had been on short river cruises but only as part of a great adventure, like the Yangtze in China, the Volga between Moscow and St Petersburg, but I had never considered cruising for the sake of cruising alone.

Then I was given a Caribbean cruise as a gift! What a gift! What a life changing gift! I actually tried to cash it in to use for something else. Luckily, it could only be spent on a Caribbean cruise – what foresight from the giver. I discovered a whole new world of possibilities and I have been cruising ever since.

I love traveling and, as an erstwhile keen sailor, I love anything to do with the sea. I enjoy meeting new people, especially those I would probably not encounter in the course of my usual life, and I thrive on new experiences. I also love the idea of being pampered, wondrous food and entertainment on tap – just for a short while, but a cruise is a holiday – so why not?

“Cruises are like any other holiday, you select what appeals to you but, unlike any other holiday, there is an astonishing variety of journeys, styles, themes and type of ships to choose from.   There are cruises suitable for families and cruises without children. You can choose to go to hot climes or to be freezing cold, lounge or be active, go for an adventure or just a rest. No wonder the cruise market is growing at such a fast pace.” – Roberta Aarons

Personally, I love themed cruises– what a fun way to meet like-minded people. But I have also chosen a cruise just because it would carry me smoothly to a place I have always wanted to see – by water, the easy way! Once on board, all is taken care of, no more airport hassle, wondering where to eat, and joy – oh joy – no more packing and unpacking no matter how many destinations you visit. I have followed the Tall Ships, ‘done Grieg’ in the Norwegian fjords, explored the Baltic, followed the North African coast, been back to the Caribbean and have frequently just flopped in the Med. I have watched dolphins off Vancouver Island, studied the archaeology of the Mediterranean basin and learnt how to fold napkins correctly. Some friends have just returned from the Antarctic, what an adventure – that’s for me next year! Yup, I’m hooked!

When I was planning ‘Slippers in the Oven,’ I needed a location for the sisters to go on holiday together. Rather like my fictional sisters, I couldn’t decide where to send them. I needed a colourful background and entertaining secondary characters for them to interact with. A cruise was the tailor made answer. I had the experience and the notes, and on a ship, I could contrive situations where they couldn’t escape from each other, although as an author, I exaggerate – when necessary!

Obviously I didn’t want to write about any particular cruise I had taken, but I wanted my imaginary ship to visit places I had been to so that I could describe them authentically. So I created an original itinerary from a combination of my experience and cruise brochures and spread maps, measuring devices and destination leaflets all over the my living room while I invented a voyage. I came a bit unstuck at one point as I hadn’t allowed for nautical miles but finally worked that out.

I then needed to design a ship and, once again, the living room was transformed -this time with deck plans of cruise vessels. I am hardly a nautical architect but I drew various possibilities, allowing for the on board locations needed for the story and being as realistic as possible without using any actual ship that I had sailed on. That was a challenge and when I proudly reviewed my first ship, I realised that I hadn’t allowed space for the ever important kitchens! Eventually, I conquered it and my ship was ready.

Then it needed a name and that was tricky. I came up with many but, even if the ship did not exist, the name had been registered and was not free to use. But Brilliantina was clear of encumbrances and I grew to love it. If anyone builds her I would love to sail on her!

The passengers? None of them are actual people I have met but as a trained journalist I do take notes everywhere and all the time, so the people I had met during my years of cruising, were recorded in detail, a useful skill. So I had plenty of references as well as many, many memories.

My first novel, ‘My Grandfather’s False Teeth’ involved a great deal of social history research which was fascinating to do. However, much of it took place amidst musty archives or online, but while writing ‘Slippers in the Oven’ it was a joy to send myself to sea every day.

But that wasn’t the end – I am off again in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to get back to sea. This time I am going to relax, enjoy the ship, the ports and the company – I might get fit or I might get fat but, whatever, I do not plan to write a word!

Roberta Aarons   22nd Sept 2014

Find out more

Having started writing fiction in her seventies, Roberta now concentrates on writing fiction full time and plans to celebrate her 80th birthday with the publication of her third book. ‘Slippers in the Oven’ is Roberta’s second novel, following her hugely successful debut ‘My Grandfather’s False Teeth’

‘Slippers in the Oven’ is available to buy now from major bookstores, independent bookstores, Amazon and on Kindle
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