When Kathryn Hind set out to write a novel about a young woman hitchhiking along Australia's highways, she had no idea what would happen to her protagonist, Amelia.
So, like Amelia, she just stuck out her thumb - metaphorically - and waited to see who would stop. The resulting novel, Hitch, is filled with characters who appear, fully drawn, and with a promise of some kind of turning point. But, as is often the case in real life, these people are merely bit players in a larger narrative.
Canberra-born Hind says this is true to her own experience of life, whether she has been hitchhiking herself or, more often, travelling alone.
"One of my favourite things about hitchhiking are these encounters with strangers," she says.
"It can feel so significant at the time, and because Amelia has to be hyper-vigilant, she's noticing a lot in the cars and about the people and constantly trying to work out what they might do next, or what they actually mean and whether she's safe. I guess there's all this importance put on that person at that time."
Amelia has fled her everyday life in Melbourne after her mother's funeral, after she is confronted by a man from her past. The person reignites traumatic memories from her adolescence.
Her months-long journey via the various cars and trucks of those who stop, with just her dog, Lucy, as a constant companion, is both a test of her own resilience, and a way to escape her own grief and trauma.
Hind began her novel while studying for a masters in creative writing in the United Kingdom in 2013; she eventually entered it in the inaugural Penguin Literary Prize, which she won, resulting in the book's publication.
And while the book itself would take six years to complete, it never strayed from its original premise.
"Amelia came to me on the side of the road, with her dog, and I just thought, she's got no idea what's going to happen, I don't have any idea what's going to happen, as the writer, so we'll just work it out, we'll see who stops. So that's how the book was written," she says.
"It was important to me that it wasn't going to be a story where girl goes travelling, something awful happens. I just find that narrative really tiring, and all the power of that narrative is actually in there without me having to actually do it."
It was important to me that it wasn't going to be a story where girl goes travelling, something awful happens. I just find that narrative really tiring, and all the power of that narrative is actually in there without me having to actually do itKathryn Hind
Hitch is a tense read, filled with a looming sense of dread; Amelia can't let her guard down even for a second, and while she is never physically harmed by any of the people she meets, the possibility of any kind of threat to her safety is always just around the corner.
Hind, 34, grew up in Canberra, where she finished school and university, and was happily ensconced in a career in communications when she decided to take another direction.
"Basically, I decided that I could keep working and earning money and being comfortable, but it felt like there was something missing, and I wanted to give myself a proper shot at writing," she says.
She was accepted into a creative writing course at Bath Spa University in Bath, England, and says the story of Hitch - bleak, unpredictable and heart-rendingly Australian - came to her almost immediately.
"It really came to me, vividly, as soon as I was overseas - Amelia was there from the first pages," she says.
She has her protagonist trudge along empty, horizon-less highways, explore abandoned train carriages and pass through small towns, both thriving and downtrodden.
The people she meets - a young tradie, a mother and her adult daughter, an uptight middle-class couple - are unmistakably Australian, both in their speech and their dismay at Amelia's predicament; it's never a good idea, anywhere, anytime, for a young woman to hitchhike in this country.
Hind herself was a seasoned traveller by the time she decided to knuckle down and write a novel, and although she doesn't have extensive experience with hitchhiking, she says travelling alone as a woman brings with it a similar sense of tension.
And while Hitch is not autobiographical, she says the experience of moving through the world as a woman - sometimes alone, often vulnerable - is unavoidably embedded in the book.
"I think Amelia and I do have a lot of things in common," she says.
"I love travelling alone, I really wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way, and the sense of being in these cars and contained in someone else's space, and the little bits of rubbish they have and the smell that they have and the feel of the car seats, and of being completely at their mercy - that is something that I did do, that I have translated into different scenarios.
"But I haven't hand-picked any of those characters from my real life and dropped them in. My travelling experiences speak to the emotion of the book, and the discomfort, and the intensity and hyper-vigilance, all of that I felt when I was travelling.
"I think it's part of the point again - she experiences all of that hyper-vigilance despite nothing happening, and so did I."
Amelia's past trauma, alluded to but never fully described in the book, is also a theme that may be familiar to many women. The encounter has been pushed down far in her memory, only to resurface, unbidden, to add to her layers of grief and guilt at her mother's death.
"I wanted to tell the story of how when these events happen to people, while there may not be any punishment or even an understanding at the time, that they do go on to play a massive role in the life of the person who was abused or taken advantage of," she says.
"You see it fan out in lots of aspects of Amelia's character."
And while the event is never fully explained, she hopes that its impact - the ripple effect over the years and into the present - will be enough to convey its importance.
"I just hope that I've put everything that I wanted in there," she says.
"So many women have these stories, but for me, she was 13, so it isn't a case of bad sex, it's abuse."
Despite its bleakness, Hitch does have moments of light and clarity; Amelia is constantly yearning for a bright, white-painted room she stayed in briefly, and she's kept hopeful by thoughts of her best friend, Sid, waiting for her back home.
But to get there, she has to move ever closer to the thoughts she has tried to keep buried, and the bleak Australian highway provides the best possible backdrop.
Hitch, by Kathryn Hind, is published by Penguin on June 4.