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Author Archive: "Karen Engelmann"

Mea Culpa, Minerva et Mars

The motto "Art and War," under imposing statues of Minerva and Mars, has graced a cartouche over the entrance to Stockholm's Riddarhuset — the House of Nobles — since 1647. Those words struck a powerful chord while doing research for my novel, The Stockholm Octavo. Providing a factual core for the story was Gustav III, arguably Sweden's most fascinating and controversial king. Aristocratic conspirators from the Riddarhuset assassinated Gustav in 1792 at a masked ball, a perfect example of the struggle for progress and power that "Ars et Mars" represented.

My fictional characters inserted themselves into and beside Gustav's late 18th century drama with plots and counterplots of their own that took on the theme as well. The two female adversaries, Mrs. Sparrow (fortune-teller and card-sharking Royalist) and The Uzanne (ruthless Patriot aristocrat) became art and war amplified to a fictional frenzy, and I returned to the idea many times as characters made choices for one over the other. "Ars et Mars" was a phrase deserving of a title page! (Page three in the galley, to be exact.) Maybe buttons and T-shirts for the launch! Thank you, ...

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