Karen Engelmann's new novel is The Stockholm Octavo.
From her Q & A with Aaron Jaffe at the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog:
How did the book come about?Learn more about The Stockholm Octavo.
In many respects it was an improbable project. I’m not a historian. I’m not even Swedish. I lived there a long time. But there was something about Sweden, especially Stockholm at that particular period, that was so captivating for me. And once I got into it, I just found it irresistible. I also think because English-language readers know very little about Swedish history, certainly the late 18th century, it’s so fascinating and wonderful. Their exposure to it would have been Verdi’s “Masked Ball,” which originally was set in Sweden but then was moved to a Boston setting. Granted, my books come with a label “Warning: Contents highly fictionalized,” but at the same time I did try to maintain a firm foundation based in historical fact.
How did your years in Sweden as an outsider inform your approach to your characters who are newcomers to Stockholm?
Experiencing life as a foreigner in Sweden gave me a great deal of insight and sympathy for the characters who were new to the town. Starting from zero is a humbling and isolating experience. There are barriers large and small to conquer, the first, and largest, being language. Culture shock is also very real. Another challenge is the reserve that is, or was, a part of Swedish culture; it can take more time than one is accustomed to be...[read on]