My husband and I sit on a quiet Sunday afternoon, collecting the images for a YouTube video available to watch on my website www.carolrivers.com
As we work, the trees in the garden sway softly in a mild November breeze. Somewhere church bells are ringing, so faintly we hardly notice them. Crisp, dry leaves scuttle along the garden path and swirl by the garage doors. Life is perfectly normal and yet as we study the faces of the Fallen, young boys and men, who a hundred years ago were losing their lives in the hell of war, the moments stop still. Fathers, husbands, sons; these men all had hope of a future before 1914. But the Great War machine ripped apart millions of families worldwide. So we chose the most poignant image of all to begin our trailer. The Christmas Truce of 1914. There were just a few hours when troops on both sides put aside their weapons and played football. The conflict could have ended there if it had been up to those men. And millions of lives saved. But sadly history tells another story.
“They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”
To view our Centenary video visit http://www.carolrivers.com/2014/11/01/100-years-on-armistice-and-remembrance-day/
Thinking of Christmas Shopping?
October 02, 2014
October 23rdis almost here, the day when my 2014 novel, TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS is publishedin paperback form. The book’s beautiful cover shows my central character, FloraShine, dressed in her Great War nurse’s uniform. Together with her two close friendsdepicted in the background, this clever artwork hints at the story inside. I'mso grateful to Simon & Schuster, my publisher, for taking such care to makethe tale come alive for the reader from the moment the book reaches theshelves. But no sooner than TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS is done and dusted, myattention turns to next year’s story, where the characters impatiently wait inthe wings, eager to be written into life. September’s amazing weather has allowedme to work in the garden on my laptop where intoxicating scents of bonfire andhorse manure fill the air. I am at once transported back to the blackenedchimneys and dilapidated 1930’s terraced houses of London’s East End, mywriting turf . If you've read my first novel, Lizzie of Langley Street, set in1919, you’ll know costermonger Lizzie Flowers is as stubbornly determined to succeedin business as she is to protect her family from the hard men of the capital’sunderworld. In this sequel, my cast of characters have moved on from their horse-drawncarts and into the modern world of motorized vehicles. Lizzie plans to opena cooperative for women, giving hope tothose families who are burdened by poverty and destitution. But the criminalgangs soon get wind of her enterprise and demand a large slice of herinvestment. Lizzie knows she has some difficult choices to make. Does shepursue her dangerous path, refusing to give in to the racketeers and perhapsputting her family in danger? Or will she finally realise that survival is moreimportant to her than success? Well, you’ll have to join Lizzie next year tofind out - and I promise it will beworth your wait! Meanwhile, with Christmas shopping already under way, TOGETHERFOR CHRISTMAS might just prove the surprise stocking-filler you’re searchingfor!
September 08, 2014
The parcel arrived from Simon & Schuster this morning; a freshly bound hardback copy of this year’s novel, TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS. I turn the clean, crisp pages into 1914 and find myself once again among the leafy plane trees of London’s Hyde Park. I join my East End orphans Flora Shine, Will Boniface and Hilda Jones, just as the country goes to war. The trio make a pact to always be there for each other, come what may. But none of these young people can guess at what lies ahead for them. Or how cruel this war will be. And how severely their vow will be tested. As I read on, I remember the journey I took in their company. It was by no means a comfortable one. I learned of the heartache and tragedy through their eyes and began to understand what happened to ordinary people in 1914, caught up in uniquely extraordinary times. I close the book and gaze at the cover. Flora, Will and Hilda look back at me, just as I remember them.
TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS is published in paperback in October 2014
'Together For Christmas' and August's ebook publication.
August 14, 2014
My Great War Centenary book ‘Together For Christmas’ is published in ebook this month. So August is a very exciting month for me, as publication coincides with the Centenary celebrations. 'Together for Christmas' opens as Britain declares war on Germany. The whole country seems to be in uproar as Flo, Hilda and Will, orphans who have just left St Boniface's Orphanage in the East End for their first jobs, sit in the sunshine of Hyde Park on a rare day off, discussing the impending war and the changes it will bring to their lives.
Little do they know what is ahead of them - nine million combatants are to be killed during the period July 1914 – November 1918. The effects of this conflict will shatter families for years to come. Some returning troops suffered what we now recognize as post traumatic stress disorder and in one way or another my young characters' lives are linked to this heart rending disaster .
Should you like to read a little more about the novel please visit my website carolrolrivers or call by Amazon.co.uk where you can download an excerpt from the first part of the book.
My very best wishes Carol Rivers.
Affairs, intrigues, romances and adventurous liaisons!
June 27, 2014
Never read a book set in the wartime era? Don't fancy pages of drab, unvaried uniforms and regulation service wear? Plots that are almost as dour? Well, let me try to change your mind! I write about women who were at their most resourceful during the two World Wars. While the men went to battle, the women used their ingenuity in the most cunning and sexy of ways. Eyebrow pencil for drawing seams down bare legs, barrage balloon material was silky and could be made into underwear and dresses. Coupons were only necessary if you bought new garments. Many in the East End of London (my writing turf) had cut their teeth on the market stalls decades before rationing. As for service wear, just think of those sizzling nipped-in waists and wiggly bottoms! The tighter the buttoned up tunic and slimmer the skirt, the more sensual the discovery beneath. Factories insisted on overalls and turbans; the Land Army favoured shirts, trousers and wellies. But perfume was still available. In the pub, GI's provided the cosmetics that couldn't be found on the shelves. It was all curving eyebrows, lashings of mascara and full, red lips to complement the flutter of long, teasing eyelashes. The female sex found themselves to be a renewed and exciting breed. Women turned their hands to driving, building, flying, labouring, mechanics, engineering, plumbing and wiring, virtually anything a man could do. And somehow they still looked feminine into the bargain. In the absence of husbands, lovers, brothers and fathers, the fair sex gained confidence and independence. No wonder there were affairs, intrigues, romances and adventurous liaisons! So if you haven't tried reading a wartime novel, why not give it a go? COCKNEY ORPHAN and A WARTIME CHRISTMAS might just be what you're looking for. If you're tempted, please visit www.carolrivers.com or AMAZON for more information.
Test Your Writing Skills!
June 09, 2014
As many of you know, I write about East Enders, the cockney communities who came before the EastEnders of Albert Square of Walford. I set my East End families on the real Isle of Dogs, Whitechapel, Limehouse, Poplar and surrounding hamlets, pre 1960. These family dramas are gritty stories and always include a heroine who will not be brow-beaten by the crime bosses and heart-rending poverty of the time. My wartime stories also reveal a whole raft of sub-plots simmering below the surface of the bombed and broken East End. If you’ve read any of my books, tell me the one you liked best. In one hundred words or less, explain the reason for your choice. To enter, go to ‘News and Competitions’ at http://www.carolrivers.com/from-the-web/ There’s a prize, so why don’t you check out the details today?
More on the Rivers Novels
May 16, 2014
The historical docklands of London are my turf, so no prizes for guessing that the people I write about come from the rough, tough, warm-hearted families whose livelihoods depended on trade from all around the world. The Great War of 1914 - 1918 and twenty years later, World War Two, snatched a big chunk of life from my lively, colourful cast of characters. They would never be the same people again, nor would the world at large. But the Rivers heroines are true grit and refuse to be beaten by the crime and poverty that threaten to overwhelm their existence. Just like the independent and strong-minded women of today, my leading ladies are a force to be reckoned with! So why not check out my web pages and discover why I write these gritty, down-to-earth family dramas set in the first half of the twentieth century. If you’d like to leave your email there, I’ll post my news to you and if you’re keen on videos, there’s a selection for you to choose from. Social media links are provided on each page; you can reach me at any time on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr. Next month I plan to hold a competition, so watch out for more news on my blog! Once again, a warm welcome to my East End novels and I do hope you enjoy browsing both Simon and Schuster’s pages and my newly updated website www.carolrivers.com
Twitter Tells the Tale
March 17, 2014
In advance of my next book, TOGETHER FOR CHRISTMAS, to be published in October by Simon and Schuster, I've been updating on social media. I would like to reach even more people in the centenary year of the Great War. My story is set from 1914 to 1918 and tells of three orphans, best friends whose lives are changed forever during the conflict. Twitter is a fantastic tool. And I have to admit, my favourite. There are little tricks involved here. I draw a parallel in writing. Dialogue catches the attention at once. Just like Twitter. Dialogue informs a wide audience of what is happening at this very moment. Just like Twitter. Looking at my work in this way has helped me with editing. Just like Twitter. Perhaps you might try practicing this exercise. We edit very nicely for our Twitter accounts. So why not apply the same to our work? And pack that punch!
A special thank-you to my readers and reviewers
February 04, 2014
Reflecting on 2013 and I can’t believe that in the 3 months A WARTIME CHRISTMAS has been published in paperback and ebook, this novel has clocked up over forty reviews at Amazon. Of course, this might be a drop in the ocean when it comes to BIG book writers. But for me, I’m over the moon! So I’m taking this opportunity to thank readers and reviewers everywhere, those on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and blog sites, and perhaps places I don’t even know about, for their time and trouble on my book’s behalf, all of which, these days, amounts to a considerable amount of effort and expense. In a busy world, where lives are packed full to the brim, you guys have shared your attention and purses with me and in reviewing, give a prospective reader some idea of the quality of the book they are about to purchase. I’m just beginning to write my 2015 novel, while my 2014 book is on schedule for October. As I write, I’m mindful that each word is very precious to you, that your expectations are high, and it’s important to create a page-turning and satisfying read. Your pennies count! Your time counts! Your feedback counts! You count! So saying, simply, thank you, doesn’t seem adequate at all. But believe me, I mean it from the bottom of my heart. CarolR x
New Year, New Book!
January 09, 2014
It’s an amazing feeling to have reached a New Year! A writer who is preparing their work for deadline, in my case, mid-February, begins to tie-up all the loose ends of their story. Quite a nerve-wracking time as it’s now that a wrong turn taken in the plot, or a loose-cannon character who has monopolized the dialogue, can pose a problem. Even with constructive and comprehensive outlines, this can quite easily happen. The result? Whole chapter rewrites, perhaps. Deletions or additions. Some can be spotted and dealt with. Others lurk in the shadows. But one thing is for sure, the story must have a purposeful ending. Without this, no book is complete. When reading books I can overlook a lapse in the middle of the narrative if the story has held me so far. Or even a few pages where the tension sags, like washday elastic, but bounces back again in the last part of the book. With my own work, I’m more judgemental. This is as it should be. As all writers know, it’s crucial that our hero and or heroine has learned something of value by the end of the book and has changed accordingly. These next six weeks are vital in the novel’s success. The book I am currently writing set during the First World War, has been challenging and harrowing to write. But now I understand so much more about life, loss, endurance and courage from the men and women who underwent a collective change during that era. And I do hope this is reflected in the story. The book is already titled, TOGETHER AT CHRISTMAS and due for paperback and ebook publication in October. No doubt the world this year will change much more than anyone could ever have anticipated. So my good wishes to everyone for 2014, hoping that light, love and peace will spill into these changes and inevitably, into all of our lives. As always, happy reading and writing!
Christmas Then and Now
December 05, 2013
Christmas 1940 for many, would have been spent together under the dripping wet tunnel-shaped roof of an Anderson shelter half-buried in the back yard. A construction that owed its shape to a handful of curved metal sheets bolted together with steel plates measuring 6’6” by 4”6”. This woebegone area was meant to hold the whole family. It was fitted with a steel shield entrance and earthen blast wall, but the doors often stuck and the floors flooded. Some shelters had bunks, some had camp beds, some just mattresses. But all of them were ridden by damp and smothered in condensation. They reeked of mould and no matter how much elbow grease went into scraping off the rust on their corrugated iron walls, another brown patch appeared overnight. Families who lived in the dock area of London were not charged for these health-hazards. The government generously handed out freebies to the population most likely to perish under the Luftwaffe’s bombs. The Blitz began on September 7 1940 and ended on May 21 1941. It was not just London that suffered. Many towns and cities of Britain were to be decimated by the bombing. But Docklands took the brunt of the Blitz with 57 consecutive nights of enemy pounding. Of course, the Allies followed with devastating attacks on Germany, costing both nations hundreds of thousands of lives. This Christmas of 2013 we have peace at home, though many still live on the breadline and conflicts rage abroad. Recently I passed a shop window and spotted the cardboard figures of Mary, Jesus and Joseph, the Wise Men and Shepherds. This Nativity Scene was of an impoverished contemporary family, waiting for the opening of a food-bank. The Wise Men were the homeless, the Shepherds the unemployed. Quite a twist on the seasonal tale. And one which took me back to the writing of A WARTIME CHRISTMAS, my latest novel, and the brave and resourceful cockneys of London’s East End as seventy-three years ago this Christmas, they too struggled to survive.
The Most Exciting “Writing” Week
November 08, 2013
This week has probably been the most exciting “writing” week of my publishing career. My 2011 saga, IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, reached the No 1 spot in Amazon Kindle’s bestselling saga chart. The book stayed there for several days boosted by Amazon’s special promotion. This had a positive effect on my current book A WARTIME CHRISTMAS, published in October and saw the novel racing up to number 21, as of today. Twitter pals posted more good news; A WARTIME CHRISTMAS is listed twice under Simon&Schuster’s Winter Warmers, at No 1 for the paperback and 5 for the ebook. So I’m sitting here at my computer, slightly jelly-legged at all this wonderful news. Although I loved writing both these books and with the help of my editor, made them even more special than I ever thought they could be, I’m just so happy that the readers have made them into such a success. It shows that the art of reading itself is still one of the greatest gifts we could give our children. A book can consume the spirit with passion and otherworldly imaginings. The genre I write, which covers the 20th century, is historically fascinating. I feel privileged to write about the decades in which two World Wars changed all human experience forever. That people are eager to learn about this experience through the medium of sagas, makes me feel humbled. But also fully alive and totally focused on making the very best of each work I undertake. I’m currently working on a novel set in 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War. This conflict was savage, brutal and had dire consequences for millions of families in Britain and abroad by the end of 1918. With Armistice week this year, we recall and honour those who died in service of their country. The successes of IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER (set during Armistice of 1918) and A WARTIME CHRISTMAS (set 1941 – 1945), reignites my own personal wish to tell their stories, just as they were. To record the lives, loves and experiences of the people who made it possible for us to be here now. With my very best wishes and thanks to you all, for your continuing support of the Rivers novels. CarolRx
An Extra Special Author Voice This Month
October 07, 2013
I’m writing an extra special "author voice" this month, firstly to thank "The Team" at Simon & Schuster for the wonderful launch of this month’s novel, A WARTIME CHRISTMAS. Not only has the book cover been treated to a sparkly, seasonal effect, but the promotions planned for around the 10th are so exciting. As many of you know I’m a Twitter fan and so there will be a competition and prizes to celebrate the event; Tesco and Asda are featuring the paperback in their charts, whilst Morrisons plan to launch the book on the New Books shelf in November. Smiths High Street stores are also stocking A WARTIME CHRISTMAS, and of course, Amazon will be pulling the stops out – my favourite on line store! So don’t forget to look in on Twitter for the details, or visit one of the supermarkets, or browse Amazon and other etailers for more information. The books will be available far and wide and I’m so happy this story has garnered so much interest. A WARTIME CHRISTMAS is very special to me, since it precedes the candlelit vigils that will be held across the country next year, marking 100 years between the Great War and 2014. To honour those who fell in battle and their families left behind - and indeed, all those present day servicemen and their loved ones who give so much in service of their country, - I am currently writing a book set during the 1914 – 1918 First World War. When published in October 2014, during the nationwide centenary commemorations I shall have written two of the most heartfelt books of my writing life. I do hope all my fans enjoy!
October's Wartime Christmas.
October 01, 2013
Just over a week to go to the paperback publication of my new book, A WARTIME CHRISTMAS. Since we’ve enjoyed such a great summer and the weather for September has been amazingly warm, it’s hard to imagine snowflakes, icy roads and roaring log fires. But almost certainly, the crisp, chill evenings of autumn will soon be upon us. And it’s then, most of us begin to enjoy our books more than ever. There’s something about curling up in front of the fire with a good novel. However, A WARTIME CHRISTMAS opens in May 1941, London’s East End, under the tunnel roof of a damp, rust-pitted Anderson shelter. The heroine, Kay, is surprised to be alive. The overnight bombardment was to be the worst of the Blitz. Auburn-haired Kay and her elderly neighbour, Vi, crawl out into a scene of desolation. Kay’s world is rocked from here on in. Then there’s the appearance of mysterious strangers on the street. British people did not know who to trust. Paranoia and suspicion was rife. Women, alone without their men, had to make life-changing decisions. Kay is one of these women, and it’s at Christmas, she’s most tested of all. I’d like to think I had the strength of character to hold my values close and trust the people I love, no matter what. But we all have a weak spot – or two. Kay has hers, but she’s a fighter. And it’s around Kay’s meagre fire, all the “nutty slack” she can scrape together for her family, that the secrets tumble out. I hope, if you read A WARTIME CHRISTMAS, you’ll be sitting warmly, looking forward to a comfortable, seasonal Christmas that Kay couldn’t have imagined in her wildest dreams, in 1941!
Tools and Tips
August 14, 2013
I'm asked frequently for tips on writing. How does an author fill the blank pages? More importantly, how to fill them with words that convince the reader to keep turning? And most importantly, to continue turning until the satisfying ending. First let's think of how many books we buy, read half-way or even a quarter of the way, then decide we’ve lost interest. What turns any of these into a flop or a success? A writer starts out with a great idea, perhaps even a detailed synopsis or outline. Great. But expanding an idea into a novel that will sell and keep selling, usually presents more challenges than can ever be imagined at the outset. Strong characters, lively dialogue, a thickening plot and a sub-plot. Pace, theme, tension – all these elements have their place in a novel. But they would be nothing without the dogged persistence of the writer to continue through from Chapter One to THE END. Many of the classics were rejected initially and dozens of bestselling authors will admit they’ve wallpapered a room with rejection slips. One of my own beliefs in working toward a publishable goal, is to take a scene at a time. To hone it, to listen to the voice in my head and rewrite it until I feel that no matter what happens between now and tomorrow, when I begin again, I have a clear understanding of the point at which I left the ‘stage’. I have the actors in my head, freeze-framed, just waiting to be turned on. I remember their last words, the action they took, who they were with and what they were thinking. If I start writing and find I’m unfamiliar with what’s going on, then I go back over the previous day’s work and engrave it into my mind. I have no word count. I don’t bolt for the finishing line. Rushing to get decent work finished leaves room for fatal mistakes. Taking a wrong turn, saying the wrong words – can strip a writer of his/her story. So what has worked for me, is not rushing, to take care with scenes. Devilishly difficult, I know, when life is so frantic. Try to be in the moment when you write. Go back over the scene until you feel complete and familiar. The next day, after a night’s sleep, you’ll be eager to switch on your players again, with a much better grasp of the world you are creating. Happy writing (and reading) everyone!
The Birth of a New Book
July 05, 2013
Perhaps the high point of writing a book is seeing the complete product for the first time. The artwork team and editors do a fabulous job in preparing for publishing day. My publishing month is October. So when, four months before this, the artwork arrives as a jpeg in my email box along with the cover copy, it’s a very exciting moment. I’m stunned this year, at how well the heroine has been captured; her long, chestnut-coloured hair, her poignant expression, her 1940’s utility clothes, just as I’d written her. The background depicts a snowy, war-torn East End of London with three small children enjoying the snow. The little shivers along my arms and back of my neck made me realize how special it is to work with such a skilful production team. The artwork and cover copy of A WARTIME CHRISTMAS reveals an enticing glimpse into the life of this beleaguered young woman, battling against all odds to keep her family safe during the long years of war. The expression in her grey eyes reflects the question posed on the back cover. “Can love find a way this Christmas?” Now I can’t wait until publishing day, still a little way off, when A WARTIME CHRISTMAS sits on the shelves of the stores and Amazon, the hard work complete and the story beautifully brought to life. http://books.simonandschuster.co.uk/Wartime-Christmas/Carol-Rivers/9780857208330
The East End. A Rich History.
May 13, 2013
The East End of London has such a colourful and rich history but not everyone sees past the glorious edifice of Canary Wharf and the new Docklands. It was the wonderful Jennifer Worth who recently raised the East End’s profile, author of ‘Call the Midwife’. The full flavour of the poverty ridden streets and plight of the communities in the post war years was brought to life between her pages. About the same time, the Kray twins were strengthening their hold on the underworld and with the advent of the 60’s, the East End Streets became a Mecca for the flower power revolution. Tourists flocked to indulge in the fashion, art, literature and swinging atmosphere. But centuries before, French Protestant Huguenots settled in Spitalfields and, like the Irish settlers were ostracized by the locals because they brought such wonderful silk weaving skills with them, narrowing the jobs market. Dramas like the Gordon Riots, the Houndsditch Murders, the Sidney Street Siege and the Battle of Cable Street filled the newspaper headlines. Strikes have always been prevalent, with work scarce, and men having to ‘wait on the stones’ daily for the chance of a casual job. And it’s these events that reflect the nature of my books; families torn apart by poverty and crime and a desperate attempt to survive. Men set against men for a pittance. Women, like Jennifer Worth’s characters, bearing child after child in wretched and degrading circumstances. The two World Wars with only twenty years separating them, provided the terrible killing fields for many thousands of East Enders. And, indeed, with this melting pot of life influencing each of my novels, I hope to reflect the homespun warmth and brave spirits of families down the ages and the tightly-knit communities of the twentieth century. To find out a little more, please visit my website www.carolrivers.com
April's Wartime Novel
April 02, 2013
We tend to think of the wartime era, 1939-1945, as drab and unvaried, full of dour uniforms and ungainly, old-maid underwear - “passion-killers” - such as our grannies wear. But it was during these years that women were at their most resourceful and many used their ingenuity in the most astonishing of ways; eyebrow pencil for drawing seams down bare legs, barrage balloon material was silky and some of it could be made into underwear, or dresses and coupons were only important if you bought new garments. And many in the East End of London (my writing turf) had cut their teeth on the market stalls decades before rationing. As for service wear, you only have to watch the TV dramas (the wonderful “Foyle’s War” for instance) to see a fair example of those sizzling nipped-in waists and wiggly behinds. Though the uniform material was rough and the design utility, there were still buttons to undo and any girl lucky enough to have bosoms enjoyed flaunting a decent bust. On the home front it may have been overalls and turbans, but make-up was still available from the black-market and the GI’s if it couldn’t be found on the shelves. It was all curving eyebrows, lashings of mascara and full, red lips to complement the flutter of long, teasing eyelashes. There was a certain mystique to women at this time, for the female sex valiantly turned their hands to driving, building, flying, labouring, mechanics, engineering, plumbing and wiring, virtually anything a man could do, whilst still looking feminine into the bargain. In the absence of husbands, lovers, brothers and fathers, their jobs were filled by their counterparts and were done very well. Which was why, post-war, the status-quo never really got back to “normal” as I’ve heard it described so many times by both women and men who lived in the 40’s. And I’ve interviewed just as many women who say that the practical and restrained designs of a boxy-shouldered jacket, belted waist and short, straight skirt, caused them to feel more slender and alluring than they did pre-war. As I mentioned in my previous blog, this month, “Cockney Orphan”, one of my republished novels from 2006 titled “Connie of Kettle Street”, is brought back by popular demand. Set in wartime the story touches on the many almost impossible challenges a small family has to cope with.This era is full of adventure, romance and of course, fashion. The heroine, Connie, falls in love in troubled times. Like many women of her generation and with the added responsibility of the orphan she takes under her wing, Connie takes a simple delight in making herself look attractive. The outcome of this – well, I won’t spoil the surprise – perhaps you’d like to read the novel to find out just how, who and when!
A Revival for Connie of Kettle Street: In April, republished as Cockney Orphan.
March 05, 2013
In April of this year, Simon & Schuster have decided to republish one of my earlier books, ‘Connie of Kettle Street’. The novel is freshly titled as ‘Cockney Orphan’. The book has a new cover too, so I thought it best to let my readers know well in advance of these plans. However, if you’ve not read ‘Connie of Kettle Street’, then ‘Cockney Orphan’ might be for you. Inthe autumn of 1940, London suffered its first devastating encounter with the Luftwaffe. These nightly bombings, historically known as the Blitz, continued uninterrupted until May of the next year. The docks were the intended targets; mile upon mile of incendiary bombs dropped by the waves of bombers, lit up a jewelled path, carving the land beneath into sitting targets. The Isle of Dogs was one of the first areas to sustain damage on the night of September 7 1940. And it’s here that my book ‘Cockney Orphan’ opens, in the mean streets of the East End, a stone’s throw from Bow and its famous bells. The Isle of Dogs is a horseshoe of land jutting out into the River Thames (made famous by the TV series, East Enders.) Centuries before, the land was rough terrain, inhospitable and a supposed exercise ground for the royal hounds – hence its name! During the Blitz however, this busy shipping route brought in vital supplies for the nation and its people. So, it only made sense for the Axis powers to attack here first. The home front action of the people of docklands as they fought back, is chronicled in ‘Cockney Orphan’. Hard to imagine that the magnificence of Canary Wharf was once a cluster of smoke-blackened houses and factories lining the docks! So for those who know little of - or want to know more about Londoners living in such a historic decade – ‘Cockney Orphan’ may be for you. This traumatic era is seen through one young woman’s eyes, Connie Marsh, as she experiences the first life-changing night of the Blitz, sweeping her through five long years of conflict to Victory Day and beyond; years that were to change Connie and her family for ever - and the whole world too!
A Charismatic but Fated Family
February 15, 2013
February has a link with a very charismatic family indeed. I have always been fascinated by the part the Romanovs played in Russia’s turbulent history. So much so, that some of my research for my novel, “In the Bleak Midwinter” made quite harrowing reading. I had decided to write about another family, a very poor one, in the East End of London, at the time when the world was trying to recover from huge losses of life caused by the Great War. In February 1917, a year before the end of world conflict, Tsarist Russia drew to a conclusion. Whilst countries across the board had suffered millions of deaths, the Romanov family was caught up in its own downward spiral. This monarchy was about to lose its grip on the people and become a dinosaur of the past. The cost of the Great War and the terrible suffering caused to soldiers and civilians alike meant this vast, troubled nation chose to have redress on its royalty, who up until then, had ruled supreme. In 1918, the Russian Royal Family was placed under house arrest. Leon Trotsky wrote in his diaries that the execution of the Royals took place on the authority of Lenin. We are told that the Romanovs were taken to a cellar and the command was given and weapons were raised. Each member was executed although legend had it that one daughter, Anastasia, escaped. Could this be true? Who knows? This is why it’s so fascinating to create historical family dramas for Simon&Schuster. I feel privileged to write with a blend of fact and fiction through the generous spy hole of history.
Fun, Frivolous and Fantastic
January 18, 2013
January celebrates the New Year with wonderfully fresh fashions at London’s Fashion Week. We are treated to fun, frivolous, fantastic creations to light up the darker days of winter. I like to compare some of the current designs to those eras I write about. From the early 1900’s to the 1960’s, the connections are quite amazing. In my last novel “A SISTER’S SHAME”, my twin heroines loved to dress-up, to be part of the fashion scene despite their abject poverty. One twin, Vesta, almost sold her soul to achieve her dream appearance. In 2013 it’s relatively easy to create a celebrity “look” – every magazine, reality TV show and celeb interview provide the inspiration for us to opt for retail therapy. Between the two world wars of 1914-18 and 1939-1945, there was a span of only twenty years. In those two decades, believe it or not, hedonism was at its height. Perhaps we women were making up for lost time – and trying to turn men’s heads, not towards conflict but to beauty and romance. Would history be re-written if women had been in charge? One of the most iconic beauties of the day was the German American actress and singer, Marlene Dietrich. She epitomized the divided nations yet her allure and mystery enticed both men and women to worship at her feet. What would have happened I wonder, if she had been a politician and not a movie star? Who knows! Perhaps you'd like to take a glance at two stunning pictures on my webpages that demonstrate the seemingly irrelevant matter of seventy-eight years, both in fashion and popular fiction! http://carolrivers.com/fun-frivolous-and-fantastic/
On December 19, 1843, Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ was published. The story is one of my favourites. Not just because of the seasonal plot line, heart-warming characters and cracking dialogue, but because the real essence of Christmas is conveyed with a delightful simplicity. The story is about a family and one wealthy but lonely and disillusioned man. We join Scrooge in his misery and poor Bob Cratchit, in his hope of being released from his labours in time to celebrate Christmas with his family. There is crisp white snow falling, perhaps a piping hot succulent turkey to come. Dickens shows us it’s the love shared in a family - who hardly have enough money to feed themselves - that is most important. And, more. At the heart of 'A Christmas Carol' is the promise of transformation. Scrooge, haunted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, mends his ways and brings to both himself and the once doomed Cratchit family, happiness beyond belief. Just as the Bible tells of the hope of Christmas, a new life born into the world that will change our lives for the better. All religions, faiths and belief systems have wonderful, uplifting stories of their own to share. When times are hard, we have these stories to inspire us, none the least, 'A Christmas Carol'. Thank you Charlie, for your gift, published well over a hundred and fifty years ago. So happy Christmas everyone! And, like the Cratchits, may we all remember to enjoy the small blessings just as much as the big ones. Very often, these are the most precious.
October and A Sister's Shame
November 06, 2012
October 2012 is publication month for my new 1930's novel, "A Sister's Shame". My stories are always peppered with gritty and often dangerous situations and this book is no exception. Just as today, my historical heroines must use a great deal of emotional energy and courage to try to resolve their desperate predicaments. In "A Sister's Shame" twins Marie and Vesta Haskins, plan to give up everything in order to sing and dance on the stage. But London's club life is as grim as it is glamorous. Young women are easy prey for experienced predators, especially girls with talent, like the pretty Haskins twins. The East End boasts one club in particular, the infamous "Duke's". It's here the girls discover what celebrity really is about and the price they must pay to achieve it. I hope you'll enjoy reading Marie and Vesta's breath-catching journey to fame and fortune. I certainly enjoyed writing this book and can still hear in my head some of the poignant songs the twins loved to sing together. The music, the fashion, the kind of women who were icons of their day, all bear a close resemblance to modern times. You'll find out all you need to know about them on my blog at www.carolrivers.com and much more besides.
A New Year and the connection between past and present...
January 19, 2012
It's great to be finishing a book at the beginning of a New Year, knowing that very soon I will be submitting it to my editor. But I have very happy memories of October of 2011, when my last book IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, was published in hardback, paperback and Kindle and crept into the Sunday Times chart.
IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER is set in 1919 and tells of a family in London's East End, suffering the traumatic effects of the Great War. As I have written before, the specific issue is of soldiers deserting the front line and the attitude of society towards their unfortunate families. Digging deep into the subject, some of the personal testimonies I researched, were heartrending. They also mirrored similar accounts of our troops and their families in the most recent of wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.
What was once called shell shock is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now at least, PTSD is recognized as a serious condition and can be treated, whereas in 1919 it was viewed with contempt and shunned. When these young men couldn't function, they were classed as deserters or malingerers. Some were executed, a dreadful injustice. I hope the story will help to enlighten readers as the novel unfolds.
Similarly, the book I am about to complete draws a link between past and present. It involves the promise of celebrity and fame sought by youngsters of the 1930's and the dangers of unscrupulous opportunists using these young people for their own gain. History repeats itself in a never-ending cycle. Fame and fortune, war and glory, are now transformed by technology. But always, the emotions remain the same.
With each book I've tried to capture some of these emotions. And most importantly, I believe that no matter how hopeless a situation may seem, it's always possible for love and the strength of family and friends to redeem us in the end.
IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER paperback and Kindle publication
October 20, 2011
It was only two months ago when I last posted and now it's October already! My latest novel, In The Bleak Midwinter, is about to be published both in paperback and digital format. I once thought that reading from an electronic device could never match the joy of holding a book in my hands. My view was shared by many in the early days of the new technology, but slowly this magic slate, as the Kindle is fondly known, has become part and parcel of everyday life. Many readers tell me they love the facility of reading larger or smaller print, plus the ability of an ereader to store hundreds of books at one time. Holiday reading has never been so versatile; gone is the bulging luggage and heavy bag problem! The ability to connect to the internet is another bonus. And whilst this new technology is a little daunting at first, it soon becomes second nature. Now I would never travel without my Kindle, whilst of course, leaving my well-stocked library at home - books that I treasure and will always buy for my shelves, as well as sign for readers at events. So, to have my new book in various formats, is a wonderful thing. But perhaps the greatest satisfaction comes in the warm approval the books have received from YOU! I couldn't have asked for more after East End Angel's successful release in 2010. So I'm taking this opportunity on Simon&Schuster's author page, to thank every reader who has spent precious pennies on a Rivers novel. I keep in touch with many of you and absorb all your comments. I am so grateful for your interest and those who take the time and trouble to post reviews on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads etc. I hope, whether you are reading this latest book in paperback or electronic form, that you will be transported back to 1919, to the East End of London, to stand beside Birdie Connor and her family, as they fight for justice and freedom. I hope Birdie's brave spirit lights up your world as you read, sharing with you her zest for life, refusal to give up hope, and her search for true love. Once again, happy reading everyone! A blessed and healthy winter to you all. Carolx
The East End and where it all began...
August 15, 2011
What is the inspiration for writing novels?This is a question most writers are asked and in my case, it’s always the Isleof Dogs, the heart of London's East End.
It began in the 1920’s, when Grandad was given the chance to rent a small, three-bedroom council terrace with a front parlour, kitchen and yard. Having lived in just two rooms above a shop with a shared outside lavatory, this was paradise.
Grandad was a casual in the docks and often out of work. He was also a revolutionary after having been tied to a gun-wheel and flogged in the Great War - by his own side. He challenged the unions and the government and Gran feared his “principles” would forever keep them in poverty. Unfortunately they did.
Though my grandparents never had a penny to their name, the house was always clean and their children loved. The pawnbroker was used every Monday, the tally many avoided on Fridays, and my mum, the eldest child of seven, won a scholarship to British Street School, a great accolade in those days.
Grandad "waited on the stones" amongst all the other casuals, seeking work that was to render many men sick from the anthrax that infected the carcass holds. He refused to be won over politically and soaked himself and his family in philosophy and revolutionary materials. Needless to say, he was extraordinary in his beliefs and he wrote many of them down at the library, where he spent hours reading, learning and encouraging people to think for themselves.
Grandad is, I believe, with me, as I write. The sense of community in the East End pervaded everyday life. Islanders were close then, as they are now. My Gran who had been in service was a true matriarch, employing what she had learned as a Lady’s maid, in her own home. She gave birth to stunningly beautiful daughters and a strong, handsome son who left for sea and the Spanish conflict. This is why my books are peppered with home-grown politics – as seen from an East Enders viewpoint. Very basic, but absolutely spot-on when it comes to shrewd survival.
The family was evacuated in World War2 and this gave me the idea for EAST END ANGEL. One young woman, an evacuee, lost her husband just after he volunteered. Everyone said how it could have been so different had he kept his reserved job. Years later I was to wonder what would have happened if he had returned to his beautiful wife and child? And I’m so happy that EAST END ANGEL seems to have struck a chord with readers too!
Happy Birthday IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER
August 15, 2011
A special birthday blog for my latest book IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER, published in hardback, August 2011.
IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER is published this week with the paperback published in two months time, October. I'm very proud of MIDWINTER, as the book took a lot of crafting, as the topics I wrote about were very hot at the time it was set in 1918. And are reflected in many societies since. Simon&Schuster, have chosen this blurb for the back cover. “Shivering a little in the cold, Birdie paused to watch the boats tied up along the jetty. ‘Stay where you are!’ A sharp command brought her out of her thoughts. ‘If you want to see your brother alive, you will do as I say.’ Birdie’s heart raced. She turned, only to jump half out of her wits as she saw a woman standing beside her. A pair of dark, fierce eyes were almost hidden under the peak of a cloth cap. Then with another sickening lurch of her heart, she saw the glint at her side and felt the tip of a blade as it pressed into her.” It’s the East End of London, and the Great War is just over. Millions have died, as many are left crippled. There are other casualties too, bearing emotional scars that will never heal. There are young men who are unjustly accused of cowardice by their own commanders and Birdie’s brother is one of these. Birdie is my resilient half-Irish heroine, who quarrels with the British legal system and an equally unbending gang of terrorists, biding their time to kill. Birdie is one gutsy lady, facing two massive Goliaths. Will she achieve a victory, or none? Has one woman the power to change the course of her family’s history? I like happy endings, but the odds seem overwhelming against Birdie. And yet…there is always the power of love to be reckoned with. Love being the greatest power of all. Happy birthday MIDWINTER!
A Wonderful Publication
November 26, 2010
I am so delighted with East End Angel's publication and feel I must share my delight with readers, as it's you who have given ANGEL such a welcome into this world. Within the first few days of publication, ANGEL came in at number 2 on Asda's shelves, number 4 on the Bookseller's Heatseeker chart and 39 with the Bookscan Paperback chart. I've been keeping an eye on the Amazon Bestselling Saga Novels chart and ANGEL has occupied number five, six and nine slots over the past few days. I am thrilled and it's down to my publisher Simon & Schuster, for making this week such a wonderful celebration. Now though, it's back to the desk and writing my next story, due out November 2011 (just right for a stocking-filler) with the fabulous title of IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER. I can't wait to complete the manuscript and see the amazing artwork, which is created so painstakingly by the publishing team. Meanwhile, I gaze at Pearl on the cover of ANGEL and think how determined she is to protect the family she loves and will do so at all costs. I am so thrilled that her story came to life between the pages of a very special book. Happy reading to everyone who popped a copy into their bag or shopping basket or bought online. Again, thank you! Carol R.
Happy Birthday East End Angel
November 15, 2010
This morning I woke to a breakfast launch of EAST END ANGEL. I knew it was going to be a special day, but it was simply magical; scrambled eggs, a glass of bubbly and a wonderful email to say that Angel is sitting at Number 2 in the paperback chart slot in all ASDA stores across the country. I felt so grateful for everything - for just being here to tell my stories, for I needn’t have been, if the Luftwaffe bomb that demolished my parents’ house in the East End of London, had claimed them as victims. Instead, they hid under the table and were eventually rescued. All my stories are peppered with personal links to the past, beginning with LIZZIE OF LANGLEY STREET. This was my first novel for Simon&Schuster and tells the story of a young girl, on the cusp of womanhood, sharing in her father's battle-fatigue and disfigurement after the Great War. LIZZIE tries to support the family, just as so many women courageously do today, in all walks of life. Families adjusting to bereavement and disablement, divorce, financial hardship and separation. So when I began to write EAST END ANGEL, I talked in particular to people who had suffered during World War ll as that was my chosen time. The more I researched, the more I saw how every story I had written since LIZZIE linked in some way to contemporary issues and EAST END ANGEL is no exception. Courage, diversity and the resourcefulness of women are at the heart of my stories. Pearl Jenkins from Angel could be the girl next door or the newly married bride in the next street. Like many of us, she marries with stars in her eyes, not knowing what will befall her, but she is so much in love, she feels she could take on the world. And so she does, in a way she could never guess, as her husband slips her veil over her head to kiss her almost on the very first page. Pearl's story begins in 1941 but it could well have taken place during any conflict that we might have remembered today for two very special moments at eleven o'clock. And how special it is, that Simon&Schuster published Angel on such a day, giving this book such an extraordinary start to life.
East End Angel and Publication Day
November 12, 2010
Just a few days to go until the paperback release of EAST END ANGEL. Always with tension in the air, countdowns are incredibly exciting. This year, even more so, because Simon&Schuster have given the Rivers brand a make-over; new style title, jacket cover and together with Facebook and Twitter a whole new readership. It’s great to have so much interest, to be able to talk to people in the real world and on-line about the tiny patch of land called the Isle of Dogs - in London’s East End – and the setting for all my stories. The island, comprised of docklands, was ear-marked by the Luftwaffe and bombed, almost flattened in World War ll. My dad survived service in the navy and was decorated at Buckingham Palace by the King. My grandfather returned from the trench warfare of World War l whilst Mum and Dad’s house was blown apart by a doodlebug. Mum took rooms and dodged the bombs and still lives to tell the tale at ninety one years of age. And then, victory! A new life in a strangely liberated world. A new kind of resourceful heroine appears, battling for equality and independence just as those women of the war years had done. EAST END ANGEL is the story of Pearl Jenkins, who beat the Blitz but had a far more dangerous adversary to contend with. I hope readers will enjoy this story just as much as I have writing it. Carol R
July 28, 2010
I'm Carol Rivers and thank you for visiting my Simon & Schuster web page. My gritty family sagas are all located in the heart of London's East End - the Isle of Dogs. You can read more of the Island's history and about its location if you click on www.carolrivers.com where you will find interesting information about me and my books. I'm very excited at the moment. My 2010 book, is to be released in hardback next month, on August 5th. EAST END ANGEL is about a young woman, Pearl Jenkins, who is forced to fight like never before to keep her family safe in war-torn London. She has a dark secret too, one that might tear apart her life. Her husband Jim, enlists and it's then she is left at the mercy both of the Luftwaffe and another, even more terrifying menace.