Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Near Miss by Fran Cusworth @goddessfish @FranCusworth


Tell us about your current release.

The Near Miss starts with an almost-fatal car accident which brings three strangers together, in a meeting which results in the creation of new friendships, the death of old relationships, and the general changing of lives all around. Grace is a frustrated young working mother, annoyed with her inventor husband; Eddy is a too-kind risk analyst who’s being taken for a ride by his selfish girlfriend, and Melody is a hippy single mum newly arrived from the rainforest commune, trying to make a new life back in the sometimes bewildering city. It’s a comic, sometimes tragic story set in Melbourne suburbia, which looks at the conflict between big dreams and big responsibilities, parenting, and trying to live with integrity.

How do you describe your writing style?
Comic, affectionate, occasionally a little dark.

What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?

Humility and a total lack of expectation that your novel will go anywhere. A total lack of vanity if anything good happens, as fresh failure is probably just around the corner. A cheerful immunity to disappointment. A true love of the process of writing, and a commitment to writing a book that YOU are proud of, because at least then you have those things if all else fails (see above!)

Is there one passage in your book that you feel gets to the heart of your book and would encourage people to read it? If so, can you share it?
Yes, this is from the first chapter.

Eddy Plenty, senior corporate risk analyst, drove his new red Subaru down Oriel Road. He had been out to the university to give his annual talk on risk management to the summer school business students, the driven types sacrificing a fortnight of sunshine and beach to knock off a whole unit on a deserted campus. He felt the usual post-seminar relief that it was over, the usual hope that he had inspired some to see the beauty in risk analysis (shrinking each year), and the usual wistfulness for the student days now behind him (growing each year). He turned west, his turbocharged H4 firing up to pass another car; the stability control system waiting to correct any errors. He had selected this car for its safety features, which included overhead airbags and pretensioner seatbelts. He had chosen many things in life according to his professional principles of risk reduction — many things except his girlfriend, he reflected, possibly the most important life choice of all. Love had selected his girlfriend for him, and Love, judging by her choice, had only scorn for mitigating harm probability or severity of failure categories. If Love were a person, she would be a fat, shrewish woman leaning on a kitchen counter and sucking on a cigarette with garishly painted lips, letting ash fall on the floor, and cackling manically at him. ‘And you, you measly, small-hearted scared-of-everything little man! For you, I pick someone who will keep you on edge, nervous, every day of your life! Ha ha ha ha!’
Eddy had for some weeks now been carrying a diamond ring in a small velvet box in his pocket. Risk: such an open declaration of his love might make the restless Romy flee from him forever. Consequence: Severe to Catastrophic. Probability of her flight: well if he were honest, over fifty per cent, or Medium to High. A Severe-to-Medium matrix was never to be advised in business, but this was a matter of the heart, and Love did not brook such interferences as rational thought. He could hear Love sucking on her fag and cackling at the very thought of his risk matrix. Anyway, it could be argued (he whispered so Love could not hear) that the possible rewards of a secure life with Romy, children, a family, changed the matrix.
He turned up the airconditioning. He needed fresh air, the car was stuffy, but the aircon would not be optimised if he opened a window. Romy should have finished her waitressing job by now, and be heading to their modest, three-bedroom brick home in a nice street, in a desirable area. No doubt checking her phone as she did every hour, for a message from the acting agency; the message that never seemed to come. Not a failed actress, as Eddy’s surly father had once called Romy behind her back, to Eddy’s indignation. Just someone who dreamed of a bigger life.
Romy had complained less about her menial job in recent weeks, newly distracted as she was by an event which had shaken both their lives. She had cheated on Eddy and slept with her yoga instructor - just a one-night stand, but still; sex, true, penetrative sex, with another man. It had shocked them both, after five years of monogamy. Romy had confessed to him within days of the act, and then proceeded to confide in all of their friends with an endearing and handwringing honesty, which made people murmur soothing things like ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself’. Advice which Eddy privately thought was well-intentioned, but not, it appeared, desperately called for. There appeared no danger of true, heartfelt self-flagellation on his girlfriend’s part.
For himself, he reflected that, had he seriously contemplated such a possibility in risk-analysis terms, he would have dramatically underestimated the likelihood of its occurrence, but probably could have guessed its consequence — the level of his pain — at about right. He was gutted. He would rather have endured a physical beating to his body than the agony of this intimate betrayal. Almost as bad had been her need to share the titillating details with all of their friends, even if it was in a spirit of self-recrimination. But such soul-baring was typical of Romy. She had even blogged about it.
However, he had survived the infidelity, and the subsequent broadcasting of it to half of Melbourne and general cyberspace. Things were healing. They would get through. And maybe, just maybe, moving to the next level of commitment would help.
Driving now along the main street, Eddy slowed. He was drawing near the strip of shops which clustered near the train line, and traffic here was always a stop-start affair. Cars pulled out of parallel parks; pedestrians darted into the centre of the road and quivered on the white line, waiting to dash to the other side. A bus heaved itself out from a stop like some massive, weary beast and blocked his vision. Eddy politely let the bus in, and two more cars took advantage and darted in front of him into the stream of traffic.
‘You’re welcome,’ Eddy told them dryly. He pressed down on the accelerator and set off.
Up ahead was an ice-cream shop; the busiest outlet in the street, of course, on a day like this. The sort of crowd the TAB drew on Melbourne Cup Day. People spilled from the door; others moved towards it. They held cones and tubs with spoons. A little girl emerged at the edge of the crowd and stepped onto the road. Eddy watched her, wondering what he could make for dinner. Maybe something on the barbecue outside, not the stove, so as to keep the house cool—
The child darted onto the road, right in front of his moving car. Eddy saw the streak of her white dress like a torn page, and in one frozen moment he saw the child’s laughing face, all mischief and loveliness, at the lower edge of the window. He slammed hard on the brake, the ABS fluttering beneath his feet to stop the car fishtailing. The child’s dress had scalloped edges, and she held a cone topped with pink ice cream, and her face was too close.
Shit!’ he shouted.
But in that last second a woman in a green dress appeared; thin, with golden hair in long ropes, and long brown arms that shot out and snatched at the child. Bystanders’ ice creams fell or melted unseen down their fingers, people’s faces distorted in gothic, open-mouthed denial. No! Every face was turned towards him. Movement everywhere. There was the plastic crunch of a second car accident somewhere in the traffic behind him. Had he hit the kid?
Eddy flung open his door. The hot air pushed in as he leapt out into the heat.

Do you have a Website or Blog?

If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day which character would you choose and why?

I would choose Melody, the zen hippy who has just moved down from the rainforest commune to live in Melbourne. She has a totally different viewpoint on life to, say, Grace, who is quite high on the anxiety and neurosis scale. Melody is a wise old soul who radiates calmness, and despite her gradual seduction into the superficial television industry, she holds onto the core of who she is. I enjoy the contrast between Grace and Melody, who stumble into the most unlikely and sometimes uncomfortable of friendships.

Is there a piece of advice that you have received that has really stuck with you? If so, what was it?

My father was a construction engineer, and he always said about big projects that if they seemed overwhelming,  then you had not yet broken it down into small enough pieces. That simple premise is the most useful tool I have when writing. Whenever I feel overwhelmed; by the blank page or screen, by a disastrously written chapter that needs fixing, by the often daunting task of facing a rewrite of a 90,000 word piece of work, then I remember Dad’s advice and I stop myself and break the work down into smaller, and smaller, and smaller pieces. In line with that, I have adopted the increasingly popular ‘pomodoro’ technique when writing: 25 minutes of non-stop uninterrupted writing, 5-10 minutes of total break. 


The Near Miss

by Fran Cusworth

GENRE:  General Fiction


Grace, hardworking and tired, wants another baby. But she's dealing with debt, a manic 4-year-old and a jobless husband determined to make his inventions into reality. Can they both get their way, or will competing dreams tear their marriage apart?

Eddy analyses risk for a living, but his insecurities have brought his own life to a halt. He won't let go of the flighty, unfaithful Romy, but will he ever risk believing in himself?

Melody is trying to raise her son Skip in the city while holding true to her hippie lifestyle. But will past mistakes and judgement from other parents force her to leave her beliefs behind?

This is a story about real life aspirations, and whether you can chase your dreams at the same time as raising children and paying the bills. It's about friendship, and how the people you meet in a moment can change your life forever.


Grace stood at the door of the waiting room and watched these three strangers, man, woman and child, and breathed a fresher air than the air she had left behind in the ward, where blue face masks and plastic tubing absorbed all the oxygen. Around them here, families gathered in little clumps, some staring at her with surly envy. They wanted in. Children wailed and coughed and grizzled. Grace went over to the man and woman.

‘She’s going to be okay,’ she told them. ‘She’s strained a ligament and bruised her foot.

But it’s relatively minor.’

‘Lucky,’ said the woman. She had extraordinary blue eyes.

‘Lucky you were there,’ said Grace steadily. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Melody. We just moved here last week. From up north.’

‘Where up north?’

‘A commune. Tuntable Falls. Have you heard of Nimbin?’

‘Of course,’ said Grace. Drop-out ’sixties scene, up in the rainforest mountains.

Explained the dreds. ‘I didn’t think there was anyone up there under sixty.’

‘Plenty,’ said Melody. ‘Their kids.’

‘You grew up there?’

‘No, here. Donvale. Most boring suburb in the world. Probably why I fled to Nimbin as soon as I could.’

Grace nodded. ‘Well, I for one am glad you came back! Hey, do you think you could both come for dinner one Saturday night? My husband Tom and I, and Lotte, we live just near the ice-cream shop. We would like to say thank you.’

The man beamed and looked absolutely delighted. ‘Can I bring my girlfriend?’

‘Of course.’ She looked at Melody. ‘Do you want to bring someone? Besides your son?’

‘Uh. Maybe.’

‘Is your car alright?’ It was the polite thing to ask, although Grace could not have cared less about the car. I do hope my child’s body didn’t dent your fender?

Eddy blushed. ‘It’s fine. We drove here in it, remember? From the scene of the crime.’

‘Oh, yes. Sorry.’

‘So to speak. Wasn’t really a crime.’ The man spoke hastily, as if sensing Grace’s burning guilt, and the two women turned as one to study him for a moment.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he said, his hand on his heart.

‘It wasn’t your fault,’ Grace said gloomily. It would have been nice to blame something other than her daughter’s lunacy, but in this case it was not possible. ‘She’s always been a runner. I’m just lucky you both have quick reflexes.’ She tore a corner from a magazine and wrote. ‘So here’s my address. I’ll see you.’

At her feet, the boy, who must have been Lotte’s age, shrieked and pointed. A tiny tin train peeled away from his feet and skittered across the floor merrily, over the linoleum, under seats and between feet, carving a straight line through the lives it passed. The hippy looked accusingly at the man.

‘You fixed it.’

He looked sheepishly proud, and crouched by the squealing, delighted child.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Fran is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She worked as a newspaper journalist for twenty years, and recently had a midlife career crisis and retrained as a nurse. She won the Guy Morrison Prize for Literary Journalism in 2013. She is married with two children and she once lived in a commune, like Melody, and at another time she desperately wanted a second child, like Grace. Like Tom, she has pursued a few foolish dreams, and like Eddy, her courage has at times failed her. This is her fourth novel.


Fran will be awarding an eCopy of The Near Miss to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour, and choice of 5 digital books from the Impulse line to a randomly drawn host.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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