Author feature and review – A Daughter’s Secret by Eleanor Moran

By | August 11, 2015

Mia is a high-flying child psychotherapist, hoping to be made partner in the thriving practice where she works. But then she takes on a case which will change her life for ever, and bring back the past she has done her best to bury.

Thirteen year old Gemma was the last person to see her father before he went on the run, fleeing from a major criminal trial. The police are desperate to track him down, pressuring Mia to tease the information out of his angry and reluctant daughter. But what does Gemma really know and how hard can Mia push without betraying her?

Both are hiding devastating secrets. Both need the other to survive. Will they learn to trust each other before it’s too late?

I wanted to tell you about an elite group of writers who exist in my little world. It’s a relatively small group, and it is an honour (really, it is!) to be part of it. It’s a group of authors whose books are totally irresistible to me, and I buy every single book they write… but they never seem to make their way onto my reading list. Eleanor Moran has been a member of that elite group for some time now, but last week I read A Daughter’s Secret – published by Simon and Schuster on 30th July in paperback and for kindle – and I was blown away by it. So I’m afraid she can no longer be a member of my little club – her books will move straight to the top of my reading list in future. 

My thoughts on the book follow, but first I’m quite delighted to introduce you to author Eleanor Moran. 

Eleanor, as you’ve seen, I’m a little ashamed. A Daughter’s Secret is the first book of yours I’ve read – and I’m really kicking myself when the others are all sitting on my shelves! Is this one you’re especially pleased with? I wondered if it might be a bit of a change of direction for you…

It certainly has more of a thriller angle than my previous novels. The Last Time I Saw You had an unfolding mystery, but it didn’t have a police investigation at its heart like this one does. What I hope I’ve been able to do is keep the same level of emotion, humour and characters that you can really fall in love with that I try to bring to all my stories. 

The way in which the relationship with your father can define a woman’s life – where did this theme come from? 

I had a complex, difficult relationship with my own father, and it certainly had a deep effect on me. I think the ‘Daddy’s Girl’ phenomenon is an idea we’re all familiar with – Angelica Huston’s wonderful memoir was all about how growing up with her philandering father John Huston delivered her straight into the arms of notorious womaniser Jack Nicholson – and I wanted to find a high stakes story to play it out. 

I really wasn’t expecting gangland – but you do it so well. Then there’s the psychotherapy – and the progress of a police investigation. The research needed must have been immense…

The therapy required less research – I’ve had plenty of it myself over the years, and one of the things I aimed to do was demystify it for other people. I’m a big advocate. My best friend is a therapist so she read the therapy scenes and gave me marks out of ten! For the police investigation, I used a fabulous barrister friend who was our advisor on a Sky legal pilot I made with Suranne Jones, Lawless, a couple of years ago. 

And how about the teenage angst and attitude – Gemma, despite her unusual situation, is an extraordinarily real and well-drawn 13 year old… 

I just tried my best to imagine that mixture of hurt and anger and manipulation, and then put it in her mouth. 

Wouldn’t it make a wonderful TV drama? I saw Suranne Jones as Mia, but know you’ve worked with her before. Who were playing the parts in your head as you wrote?

My second career is as a TV drama producer, so there is no doubt I was thinking this could adapt well as I wrote it! It’s so much easier to get books adapted when they have an investigative spine. Suranne is wonderful: I’d work with her again in a heartbeat. 

Of course, TV isn’t an alien environment for you. You’ve had a hand in so many of my favourites – Spooks (I have every boxed set…), New Tricks, Being Human… how on earth do you manage to fit your two careers around each other?

It’s a constant juggle. I run a busy drama department in a TV company 4 days a week, and then write around the sides. When I started I was full time at the BBC so it was lots of early mornings and furious typing on the train to Cardiff (I was in BBC Wales at the time). 

I’m fascinated that your impetus to write came from attending an Arvon writing course – would you recommend something similar to other first time writers?

Oh God yes! I spent a lot of time staring at a blank screen desperately wanting to write before that one week novel writing course gave me wings. A friend dropped out, offered me her place at a knock down price, and I was away. I’m a big believer in fate, so I thank the ‘chaps upstairs’ for that particular opportunity! 

And will we be seeing Mia again? I’d love to see a series…

You certainly will. I’m hard at work on the next novel which also features Mia. She’s my new best friend! 

Thank you Eleanor – I think Mia might just become my best friend too… 

My thoughts

As I said, I wasn’t expecting gangland – or a story driven by a police investigation, or the complexity of father-daughter relationships. The book is also a tender and beautiful – relatively conventional – boy-meets-girl love story. But everything comes together wonderfully in this book, with Mia as its fascinating centre. We have the complex story of Mia’s childhood, her experiences both helping and complicating her professional and personal relationship with thirteen year old Gemma. We have Gemma herself – and the difficulty of knowing whether she’s a victim, a pawn or a master manipulator. And then we have Mia in the present day – her relationships, her choices, her patience as a psychotherapist sometimes in stark contrast to her occasional bluntness with friends and colleagues. 

The characters are wonderful, the dialogue sparkles, and the story itself kept me turning the pages into the early hours. I thought it was quite perfectly paced, filled with tension, and so very well written. The only difficulty comes in defining it – not something I like to do, but just so that I can maybe say “if you liked x you’ll love it”. It’s a psychological thriller, part police procedural, part love story, family drama… ah, whatever! I think the best I can do is tell you how much I enjoyed it… 

My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for my advance reading copy, and to Eleanor for joining me on Being Anne.

Eleanor Moran is the author of five novels – the latest is A Daughter’s Secret. Eleanor is currently Head of TV at 42. Her credits include the Emmy award winning Enid, Being Human and Rome. You can find more information about Eleanor and her books through her excellent website: you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter