For Sussex author Fiona Cane, the journey to publishing her fourth novel was a tumultuous one, but she describes The Other Side Of The Mountain as the book she has always wanted to write.

Fiona, who has family ties to Worthing, and lives in Arlington, has received praise and encouragement from some big names.

She was mentored by bestselling crime novelist Peter James early in her writing career, while comedian and writer Eddie Izzard pushed her down the route of self-publishing for this latest book. The Other Side Of The Mountain has been described as a literary thriller.

Set in Haiti in 2001, it is written from the viewpoints of three women whose lives collide amidst political turmoil, an impoverished farmer, a British journalist, and an ex-pat gynaecologist.

“It’s just so difficult now; publishing companies take on maybe one or two authors a year,” says Fiona.

“I was really encouraged to go down the route of getting an agent and a publishing deal.”

Fiona says that she was initially concerned about going down the self-publishing route due to the stigma attached to it.

Former school friend Eddie Izzard was one of those who talked her into this course of action after she had had several leads but no luck with the traditional publishing route and was almost at the stage of giving up.

“I bumped into Eddie Izzard just by chance in Eastbourne; we lost touch after school. He told me that I had to really push, and want it, and believe.”

Previously, Fiona’s novels have been crime thrillers, but with The Other Side Of The Mountain she has departed in a new direction, with a book that she says is more similar to those she herself enjoys reading.

“I changed tack completely with this book,” says Fiona. “It is much more the book I have always wanted to write but was never sure if I could.

The subject matter for the novel came to Fiona through her previous novel, The Gate, the central character of which is a foreign correspondent.

As a result Fiona was particularly attuned to international events, and the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 caught her attention and imagination.

She started reading all the literature she could about Haiti, beginning with Graham Greene’s The Comedians, and despite not yet having visited the country has built up a complex picture of the people and culture.

In order to get inside the headspace of her characters whose experiences are so vastly different from her own, Fiona simply lets her imagination do the work.

“I tend to write their biographies,” she says of her characters. “You start putting words into their mouths and they become real.”

When Fiona started out as a writer, her mentor was none other than Brighton-based novelist Peter James.

“I met him at a drinks party, and he said, you must come over and show me your work,” explains Fiona. “This was right back in the days of Killing Fame, my first novel.

“He is still in touch, and is incredibly supportive.”

Fiona lives somewhat of a double life; on the one side she has her writing, while on the other she is a tennis coach.

Having always played tennis, she never imagined she would make a career out of it, and worked in film and entertainment PR before moving into sports management and tennis coaching and becoming a writer.

“Both jobs require commitment and hard work, but while one discipline requires mental agility the other is mainly physical,” says Fiona. “So, actually, they complement each other quite well. After hours spend sitting alone in front of a computer screen, I’m usually grateful for the fresh air, exercise and lively company of my clients.”

• The Other Side Of The Mountain by Fiona Cane is out now. Paperback £8.99 / ebook £3.49.