The Big Thrill Discusses IT TAKES MONSTERS with Mandy McHugh
Victoria Tate has had enough of her controlling, incompetent husband Warren. But planning the perfect murder is more difficult than she expected. When the social event of the year, an over-the-top costume ball, is rescheduled for the date she has selected for her crime, Victoria has to scramble to make sure she will still be able to follow through. But even hours of listening to crime podcasts cannot prepare her for the next wrench that is thrown into her plans: Warren turns up dead by someone else’s hand.
Now Victoria finds herself at the center of a murder investigation in which she is actually innocent. The real killer taunts her, making it clear that they knew what she was planning all along. With the police closing in and her neighbors turning on her, Victoria stands to lose everything she had hoped to gain from Warren’s death, unless she can figure out who wanted her husband dead—and why.
It turns out that Warren was better at keeping secrets than she ever could have guessed. But which secret is the one that led to his death? And even if she can find the answers, does Victoria have what it takes to confront a real murderer?
In this twisty thriller from the author of Chloe Cates Is Missing, danger comes from both the monsters among us and the monsters that lurk inside us.
Mandy McHugh recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest domestic thriller, IT TAKES MONSTERS.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
IT TAKES MONSTERS was originally inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear. I was re-reading a few of the tragedies in the middle of the night when I was up late with the babies. I had just finished a best friends murder story with sci-fi elements and knew I wanted to write a dark domestic thriller—but I also wanted to explore complicated family relationships and the complexities of power dynamics. Shakespeare was the perfect starting point. Victoria’s character was pretty solid in my mind from the beginning. The opening sentence remains one of my favorite lines I’ve ever written.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
While King Lear was a major inspiration for IT TAKES MONSTERS, I also had the cult favorite TV show Nip/Tuck at the forefront of my thoughts. I loved the violent portrayal of the pursuit of beauty—the unachievable standards and the lengths people go to trying for the “perfect 10” anyway. Also: one of the things my friends always make fun of me for is my love of pop culture. Not only am I a human juke box, but I can quote a plethora of movies at the drop of a hat. Inevitably, some of this bleeds into my writing.
Victoria’s sister, Teagan, is more likely to drop the cinematic references—many of which reflect what I was listening to or watching at the time. Nineties music, Stephen King, and a nod to Jensen Ackles all make appearances.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
The fact that people are reading my words will never cease to amaze me. Being an author is the most humbling emotional roller coaster. What I hope readers take away from IT TAKES MONSTERS is a good, fun scare. I started my career writing in the horror genre, and I still gravitate toward the darker side of humanity when I’m figuring out what makes my characters work.
Victoria confronts her own monsters as well as the monsters threatening her livelihood, reflecting on questions of societal demands, beauty standards, the impact of social media on our perception of “normal,” and her own conflicting desires—and readers get to experience this with her from the safety of their covers.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
Currently, I’m in the beginning stages of my next WIP, a suburban murder club thriller with Desperate Housewives meets Dexter vibes. I’m really excited about this one.
Mandy McHugh holds an MA in English from the College of Saint Rose and a BA in English Education from Le Moyne College. Her works have appeared in various literary magazines and podcasts, and she lives in upstate New York with her husband, two kids, and dog.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.
It Takes Monsters with Mandy McHugh