We talked to Tasha Kavanagh about her longlisted novel, Things We Have in Common.
‘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 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.’
The Desmond Elliott Prize judges said: ‘It should be no surprise to read that the author was an editor for, among other films, The Talented Mr Ripley. Maybe once a pupil at the Patricia Highsmith academy of the dark dramatic arts, surely now a graduate with honours.’
Describe your book in one sentence
Things We Have in Common is a dark coming of age thriller about how far a lonely girl will go to fulfill her need to belong.
How does it feel to be longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize?
I feel immensely thrilled and humbled to be counted amongst such fine writers.
Why do you think a prize for a first novel is important?
There is something very special about first books. They spring from a writer’s subconscious, revealing the writer to himself as much as to others in an epic journey of self-discovery. To be welcomed at the end of such a journey is so heartening. I think the generosity and eager acceptance of new voices is humanity at its best. Celebrating and awarding new fiction is to applaud those that have made the journey and to say ‘Look!’ to writers still making theirs, ‘you can do it, too!’ That’s a wonderful message.
What is your favourite debut novel?
This is ludicrously difficult to answer, but I’ll say The Collector by John Fowles. When I read it at 15, I was captivated by the voice, by the terrible and tragic truth of Frederick Clegg.
What’s the book you are recommending right now?
This is a slight cheat because it’s not out for a few months yet, but Himself by Jess Kidd is stunningly good.