Home Book publication Schenectady’s Mandy McHugh Taps Horror Fandom in ‘Chloe Cates is Missing’

Schenectady’s Mandy McHugh Taps Horror Fandom in ‘Chloe Cates is Missing’


Talk to most writers and they’ll tell you how long it took to write their first novel, find an agent, and then a publisher. It often takes years and a lot of disappointment before publication, but Mandy McHugh, the Schenectady novelist behind “Chloe Cates is Missing” (Scarlet Suspense), found success faster than most.

“I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school. I started writing my own little stories when I came across RL Stine’s ‘Fear Street’ series.

She started to really pursue writing six years ago when her son was a baby. “I was up at 2 a.m. with him and instead of going back to sleep I started writing short stories, mostly in the horror genre because that’s what I was reading.”

In 2017, McHugh’s first story was published in an anthology, and soon after, two more were published. One of the stories was read on a popular horror podcast. “That’s when I decided to start writing a novel. I sat down and didn’t plan anything. I just picked my first idea and wrote,” she said,

McHugh found a community of writers on Twitter and suggested a story idea on the Pitch Wars website. “My first novel was picked up by a small press, but they folded within a year. ‘Chloe Cates’ was actually my third novel, and the fastest I’ve ever written. I finished the first draft in less than a month and I found my agent a month later. It all happened so fast.” McHugh is finishing edits to his second book, “Play the Fool,” a thriller loosely based on “King Lear.”

In “Chloe Cates Has Disappeared,” 13-year-old Abby Scarborough, aka child celebrity Chloe Cates, may have been kidnapped or murdered. Detective Emilina Stone uncovers Abby’s diary and discovers how Abby dislikes portraying the character of Chloe, even though it’s the family’s main source of income.

Most thriller and mystery writers work diligently to plot their books before writing their first line. One of the most popular crime writers of all time, Agatha Christie, often wrote 50 or more pages detailing each character and outlining each chapter before she began writing, but McHugh did it differently.

“I had a very vague idea of ​​where I wanted these characters to go. I kept surprising myself along the way. I wanted this ruthless mother character, Jennifer, with a dark backstory, and I knew she was sort of related to being a detective. Mainly, I really wanted to take a look at the culture of social media through Jennifer’s relationship with her 13-year-old daughter who became a child internet star. story unfolded.

McHugh went from chapter to chapter not knowing where it was all going. “My first draft was much darker and every day when I wrote I surprised myself. ‘Gone Girl’ is the book that most writers in this genre stick to. This book had all these twists and turns and plots, and that motivated me to write this book.

McHugh said there are little bits of her in every character in the book. “When I started writing the book, I had a lot of sympathy for Jennifer and her struggles as a new mom and feeling on the outside. I had similar insecurities. Jennifer’s flashbacks in the 1990s are my memories of that time with all the girl cliques I had to go through, it was a time when it was so important how you were perceived by other people.

One of the major themes of this book is how destructive and addictive social media can be. “I have an 8-year-old daughter and everyone in her class has a cell phone or tablet. She already has Facebook Messenger to connect with her friends, and I’m worried about her online presence and how which her friends are going to take a picture of her and maybe post it online.

McHugh admits to being intrigued by the dark side of humanity. “I love to hear or read about a corpse, and I don’t think I’m the only one who has that feeling. I was probably 8 years old when I started watching ‘Unsolved Mysteries’. I’ve always been fascinated by crime stories and ghost stories.I always wanted to know why people do bad things.

She said that even when she was training, she loved editing a movie like “The Shining.” “There’s nothing rational about it. I love the feeling of being scared even though I know I’m perfectly safe.

Her kids also love that McHugh writes scary stories. “They want me to tell them what’s going on in the stories and the books, but I tell them, ‘You’ll have to read them when you’re older.'”

“Chloe Cates Has Disappeared” by Mandy McHugh

Scarlet Suspense, an imprint of Penzler Publishers