Ulla Hakanson began writing her first novel, The Price of Silence, during a week-long kayaking trip through the wilds of British Columbia.

The tale began as an adventure, then veered into a dark place, seemingly of its own accord. Which only made sense, given Ulla’s long-time interest in true-crime stories and dark-themed fiction by authors like Stieg Larsson. The unexplored nighttime wilderness, the sounds of wildlife and whispered conversations by firelight all sparked Ulla’s imagination. In no time at all, she went from retired graphic artist to aspiring author—and someone who couldn’t imagine not writing.

“I didn’t know anything about writing novels,” Ulla says now. “I’d heard you should write about something you knew, so I had to talk to many professional experts in order to “know” some of the things I wanted to write about. I trusted my storytelling intuition—and then filled in the knowledge gaps.”

Ulla consulted a police superintendent, a forensic lab staff sergeant, a supreme court judge, a defense attorney and medical and psychological professionals. The Price of Silence took five years to complete.

Ulla’s writing room looks out on forest and the creeping west coast fog. On most days, birdsong, wind and rain—and perhaps the occasional deer—are her sole companions.