Author feature – The Other Side Of The Mountain by Fiona Cane

By | August 20, 2015

It’s 2001, and amidst the political turmoil in Haiti, three disparate lives collide: Yolande, an impoverished farmer desperately looking for the sister her abusive husband has sold into slavery; Maddy, an eager British journalist on her first overseas assignment, set on making a name for herself; and Clare, an ex-pat gynaecologist who’s devoted the past eight years to healing Haiti’s downtrodden women. 

Divided by language, lifestyle and personality yet all driven by painful memories buried in their pasts, the three women unite to search for the missing child. It’s a quest that takes them deep into the city’s underworld, where poverty is rife, black magic thrives and violence is king; a world in which appearances can be deceptive and where survival is by no means certain.

The pictures I use on Being Anne are usually small – I’m a words person, and the pictures less important – but I just had to let you see this cover in its full glory, because I really love it. The Other Side Of The Mountain by Fiona Cane was published in June, and is available in paperback and for kindle (free if you’re with kindleunlimited). I only discovered this lovely book when I stumbled across the author on-line – as you sometimes do. I plan to read and review it as soon as I can manage it, because it really looks like a book I’ll enjoy. I was delighted when Fiona agreed to join me here on Being Anne to tell me more about herself and her writing.

Welcome to Being Anne, Fiona – would you like to introduce yourself?

Hello, Anne, and thank you for having me. My name is Fiona Cane. I’m an indie author and tennis coach (an unusual combination that seems to work quite well), and a mother to Holly and Sam.

I’m really excited by The Other Side Of The Mountain – and not just by the beautiful cover. Would you like to tell me a little more about it? Why should people read it?
I’m so pleased you like the cover. It was nerve-racking revealing it for the first time but the response has been very positive, and I’m thrilled. The novel is being billed as a literary thriller but has also been listed as contemporary women’s fiction, so I guess it ticks a lot of boxes. 

It’s set in Haiti in 2001, which was a particularly violent period for this politically volatile country. The story is written from the viewpoints of three very different but determined women all of whom are trying to overcome a tragedy lodged in their past. They meet by chance and agree to join forces in a hunt for a child lost in the heart of Port-au-Prince’s underworld. It’s a gripping tale, with a very powerful love story at its heart, shot through with humour and set in a complex and intriguing country. 

I notice this isn’t your first novel – the earlier three look like psychological thrillers. Is this one a deliberate change of style for you?
Yes, that’s right. The Other Side of the Mountain is the sort of book I enjoy reading and always wanted to write but didn’t think I was able.

Why Haiti – what attracted you? Was your research book and internet based, or is it a country you know?
I was writing my third book, The Gate, in 2010 when the devastating earthquake struck Port-au-Prince. I knew very little about Haiti, so I bought a book from Amazon, Bonjour Blanc by Ian Thomson the travel writer. He touched on so many of Haiti’s layers: its violent history, the racial conflict, the heartbreaking poverty, voodoo.  My curiosity was piqued, so I read The Comedians by Graham Greene, a couple of novels by Haitian writers, then I bought a book about the suffering of its women, another about the street children and a very moving story written by a restavek (child slave), several on the political situation of the era, voodoo and so on. I was hooked. The plight of Haiti’s women really got inside my head, as did the children from poor families given away to be child slaves. Little by little a story began to form. The internet was invaluable too, in helping me visualise the place.

How did you start writing – was it something you’d always wanted to do? And when the moment came, did you just sit at your keyboard and write?
I’d always wanted to write but was a little coy about starting because I was doubtful I’d be able to produce anything coherent. But then I was diagnosed with endometriosis and had to have a series of operations. I was housebound for a while so, one day, I went into my husband’s study, turned on the computer and started to write… 

How is it working, fitting writing around your family and the day job?
I was very disciplined when the children were young and only wrote when they weren’t around but they’re grown up now and my husband commutes, which means I have the house to myself for long periods. I’m a self-employed tennis coach, so I try and schedule my lessons to allow me the maximum writing time, although I have to admit it’s very difficult in the summer.

Tell me a little about your path to publication as an author – what issues have you encountered without the support of a publisher?
I always forget that my first book was actually published by a tiny independent publisher. Unfortunately, they only had two authors and they folded pretty quickly. But I was lucky enough to have the support of Peter James who lived nearby and whom I met at a party. He read my work and encouraged me to take my first book to the Harrogate Crime Writer’s Festival, which I duly did not knowing a soul. Very brave in hindsight but crime writers are a friendly bunch and the ones I met all offered encouragement. 

My aim has always been to present as professional a book as possible.  So, having written The Other Side of the Mountain, I worked with the editor, Jenny Parrot (who was instrumental in my decision to self-publish), designed a cover with a graphic designer friend, and hired a copy-editor, the wonderful Vicki Harris, to tighten up my prose. But it’s tough being a one-person publishing company and marketing has been the biggest issue. Although I used to work in film PR, I find it very difficult pushing myself, and my own work, forward. Friends are great and so is word of mouth but it tends to be quite local and I really wanted to reach out to a wider audience, which is difficult when national newspapers and magazines won’t review or feature indie authors unless they are bestsellers. 

Just before the launch I was getting very dispirited and then, Anne, you accepted my request to join Book Connectors. Being given the opportunity to interact and make friends with other writers and bloggers revived my flagging spirits.

What next do you think? Are you happy to continue as you are, or are you hoping an agent or publisher will take you under their wing?
I would love to strike a publishing deal, or be signed by an agent, but in the meantime I am happy. The indie author’s lot is improving all the time.

And not rushing you, but are you already working on the next book? 
I am and I’m returning to England for this one. Very briefly it’s about a jazz singer and her relationship with two men, and her twin sons’ relationship with one girl. It’s set in sixties Soho, and seventies and present day Sussex.

It’s been an absolute joy meeting you Fiona, and I do hope The Other Side Of The Mountain will both catch the eye and capture the imagination of Being Anne’s readers. I’m really looking forward to reading it – and after that, can you put my name down for the next one too please?

Fiona Cane was born and raised in Sussex. After graduating with a degree in Philosophy from Exeter University she worked in London as a film and entertainment PR. She returned to Sussex in 1994 with her two children and qualified as a tennis coach. The Other Side Of The Mountain is her fourth novel. 

Bestselling crime writer, Peter James, describes her as ‘a natural storyteller, with a vivid writing style that is eminently readable’. Prize-winning author, Dreda Say Mitchell, describes ‘The Other Side of the Mountain’ as ‘Both haunting and exhilarating, this beautifully written tale will keep you turning the pages until the very end.’ 

For news and updates, do visit Fiona’s website.