The idea for The Hidden Child originally came to me after receiving an email from a Swedish reader. A man living near Fjällbacka, where all my novels are set, had contacted me and asked a seemingly simple question – ”Did you know that there was a lot of dramatic events going on in the Fjallbacka-area during World War II?”
And the truth was – no, I didn’t know, despite having spent quite a bit of time in Fljallbacka as a child. Curious, I started doing research and it was like opening a Pandora's box of inspiration. Since Fjällbacka is in Western Sweden and lies so close to the Norwegian border, there were people, goods and news travelling back and forth between Fjällbacka and Norway. Many of Fjallbacka’s residents were quite brave when it came to helping out their Norwegian neighbors, who were suffering under the German Occupation.
In the course of my research, I discovered that the Germans had a prison outside of Oslo, called Grini, where they put Norwegians—and other people they considered threats—working with the resistance. And I also learned that some Nordic prisoners had been shipped off to concentration camps in and around Germany.
All of this set my imagination in motion. I had so many ideas for the historical part of the novel, it was almost overwhelming. And then something else suddenly came to me. When I started writing about Erica Falck (my series heroine) and her parents in my first book The Ice Princess, I wrote her mother Elsy to be a cold and distant woman. At the time, I didn’t have a specific reason in mind for developing her in this way and for four books I wondered why. When I started writing The Hidden Child, Elsy’s entire life story landed right in my lap. It was like the story had been forming in my subconscious for four novels, and finally emerged when the time was right. With Elsy’s background now clear to me, I felt sympathy for her for the first time. And thus, as Erica slowly uncovers her mother’s tragic secret in The Hidden Child, she understands her mother for the first time and much of her sadness, anxiety, and hurt about her childhood is relieved.
Interestingly enough, The Hidden Child, out of all my novels, has given me the most wonderful and amazing encounters with readers throughout the years. I was doing a photo shoot shortly after the book had come out in Sweden, and the woman doing my make up, who was in her fifties, asked me if I knew someone who had been in the resistence in Norway. She then proceeded to tell me that she was half Norwegian, that her mother was from Norway and had been in the Norwegian resistance during the war. Her mother had been captured, taken to Grini and had been severely beaten by the Nazis during her imprisonment. Upon release, she fled to Sweden and became a nurse and raised a family of four children there. But she had rarely spoken to her children about her experiences during the war.
After The Hidden Child was published, she bought a copy and approached her children and said: ”Please, read this book - this is my story.” I still get tears in my eyes when I think about that. As an author you do a lot of guessing. I do as much research as I can – but at the end of the day I have to fill in a lot of the blanks myself with my imagination. It was thrilling and wonderful to hear that I had gotten it so right that a woman with such harrowing experiences from World War II could use my book to finally open up and share her history with her own children.