Yasmin would give anything to have a friend… And do anything to keep one.
The first time I saw you, you were standing at the far end of the playing field. You were looking down at your brown straggly dog, but then you looked up, your mouth going slack as your eyes clocked her. Alice Taylor. I was no different. I used to catch myself gazing at the back of her head in class, at her silky fair hair swaying between her shoulder blades.
If you’d glanced just once across the field you’d have seen me standing in the middle on my own, looking straight at you, and you’d have gone back through the trees to the path quick, tugging your dog after you.
You’d have known you’d given yourself away, even if only to me. But you didn’t. You only had eyes for Alice.
Read if you loved: The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Tasha Kavanagh Biography
Tasha Kavanagh worked in film editing for ten years, on features including Twelve Monkeys, Seven Years in Tibet and The Talented Mr Ripley.
She has an MA in Creative Writing from UEA and has published several children’s books under her maiden name, Tasha Pym.
Her first novel Things We Have in Common has been shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2015 and the Guardian Not the Booker Prize.
She lives in Hertfordshire with her family.
Tasha Kavanagh on the Inspiration Behind Things we Have in Common
People say books get under your skin and shape who you are, but I had no idea to what degree this was true until I wrote Things We Have in Common.
Writers often talk about experiencing an existential feeling as they work – of feeling like little more than vessels for the stories they create – and particularly at the initial stages of writing Things We Have in Common I had that experience too. When I decided to try to write a novel, I had no idea what theme, characters, plot or even genre might emerge. The only conscious thought I had was to try writing to a fictional ‘you’ because that felt intimate and seemed to me to perfectly represent a reader’s personal relationship with a book.
I began a sentence: The first time I saw you, you were standing at the far end of the playing field… and felt instantly drawn to the tone of the voice. I knew it was a teenage girl speaking. I knew she was overweight and lonely and that the ‘you’ she was addressing was a sinister, older man. I also knew that what she wanted to tell me was going to be dark, secret and deeply delusional, and I wanted to keep going find out what that was.
It’s fairly clear why I was drawn to such a dark theme, I suppose, since almost all the books I’ve read and loved are dark, psychologically driven stories – The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks, Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier, Magic by William Goldman, This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith – but where Yasmin, my protagonist, came from, I had no idea. She is nothing like me, from her background to her life experiences, yet there she was driving the narrative of my story.
I was more than two thirds into Things We Have in Common before I remembered, out of the blue, The Collector by John Fowles. I had read it when I was fifteen, the same age as Yasmin. Immediately, I bought it and devoured it again and was stunned by how plainly it had influenced me and how, whilst I had forgotten it for so long, my subconscious obviously had not.
Where Yasmin and her story came from and why I felt I knew her so well is still a mystery to me. I can only explain her as coming from that same subconscious place as The Collector. Perhaps, before she came to the surface of my mind, she had been living her whole life there amongst the characters from the books that have so greatly affected me. It feels like that, in any case, and that it was those characters and not me at all who really created her.