I am delighted that FIONA CANE is joining me on my blog. Fiona's fourth book - The Other Side of the Mountain - is out today (6 August 2015).
I was one of those children who had imaginary friends and who loved playing imaginary games and writing stories. English Literature and drama were my favourite subjects at school – I loved acting and reading. I used to read by torchlight under the covers after lights-out. I was really into Enid Blyton and Aruthur Ransome but I read anything I could get my hands on. My mother wasn’t really into books but my Dad loved Daphne Du Maurier and H E Bates, so I read those, and my brother’s books about the schoolboy, Jennings, Ian Fleming’s James Bond Stories, The Lord of the Rings. And then I discovered my grandparents had the entire works of Thomas Hardy. That was like hitting the jackpot. I always wanted to write but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with endometriosis that I actually sat down and gave it a go. Being housebound provided the trigger.
Where do your ideas come from?
That’s a question I’m asked a lot. Usually I’ll be talking to someone, or listening to something on the news or walking the dog, and I find myself thinking what if …? For example, what if a mother was so determined her child should succeed she was prepared to kill? This seed of an idea resulted in ‘The Gate’. I was a parent at a prep school and there were quite a few pushy parents at the school gate!
Have your personal experiences influenced your writing? And if so, how?
In some cases, yes, although not always in the obvious ways. My first book ‘Killing Fame’ was set against the backdrop of the film industry, which was influenced by my experience as a film PR. I was also the victim of a stalker, which helped with the fear the central character feels in my second novel,’ When the Dove Cried.’ The less obvious influences are the unusual situations I’ve been in which aren’t particularly notable but which bring a three-dimensionality to a particular scene, or a strong emotion I’ve experienced that I can ascribe to a character. I think it’s true to say the more experiences you have had the better. But never discount the power of the imagination. Or listening to other people’s experiences. And reading.
Describe your writing style in 10 words or less?
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I always wear my grandfather’s top hat when I write! Ha ha. Not really, other than a habit of sitting in very strange positions when I’m really into the story. Consequently I get terrible neck ache.
Do you plot out the whole book before you start or just start writing and see where it leads you
I tend to write a rough outline, the thread of the story, if you like, as well as in-depth character biographies. My agent always asked for a synopsis but that doesn’t work for me. The characters only really come to life when you start writing. And then they start to act in ways you hadn’t planned, and think autonomously, (well sort of) and that’s the exciting thing about developing a story. You roll with it and see where it takes you.
What do you consider to be the hardest part of your writing?
Handing my precious first draft over to an agent or editor who then pulls it apart.
Do you read? If so, who are your favourite authors?
I read voraciously. I’m passionate about Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Hardy but my favourite current authors are Ann Patchett, Kate Atkinson, Donna Tartt, Kate Morton, Rose Tremain, Mark Mills and David Mitchell.
Your latest book, The Other Side of the Mountain, is set in Haiti. What inspired you to choose this setting, and how did you go about doing your research?
I was watching the TV coverage of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. Aside from Papa Doc, it’s a country I knew very little about but listening to the coverage, my attention was grabbed. I ordered a book from Amazon about its history, which was so interesting I ordered another about the struggles of Haiti’s women during its violent political history, and then another about Paul Farmer, an inspirational American doctor-anthropologist who founded a hospital with Ophelia Dahl when he was only 23. By the end I’d read twenty-eight books, including one on Vodou and several novels by Haitian authors. I was hooked. The plan was to visit, but my husband and I hit a tough time financially, almost losing our house and his business, and I couldn’t afford to.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would be the title?
My life isn’t interesting enough but, being a tennis coach as well as an author, 'Between the Lines' seems somehow appropriate.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up when the going gets tough. Stick at it, particularly at the editing stage. And believe. If you don’t, no one else will.
And lastly, why should people read The Other Side of the Mountain?
They should read The Other Side of the Mountain primarily to be entertained and moved; there’s a very powerful love-story at its heart. But also because it’s a gripping tale about three very different and determined women, shot through with humour and set in a complex and intriguing country. Dreda Say Mitchell, prize-winning author of Running Hot, Geezer Girls and Vendetta, describes it as ‘Both haunting and exhilarating, this beautifully written tale will keep you turning the pages until the very end.’
About Fiona Cane
Fiona Cane graduated from Exeter University with a degree in Philosophy. She worked in film and entertainment PR before moving into sports management and tennis coaching. She lives in Sussex with her husband and two children. The Other Side of the Mountain is her fourth novel.
Follow Fiona Cane on Twitter - @FionaCaneAuthor.
The Other Side of the Mountain
Published on 6 August 2015
It’s 2001, and amidst the political turmoil in Haiti, three 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.
Find the book on Amazon UK here.