The Stag and Hen Weekend

stagandhen.jpgThe Hen's Story...

Helen loves boyfriend Phil so why with a week to go has she yet to buy her wedding dress? Convinced it's a case of cold feet she lets best friend Yaz talk her into celebrating with a hen weekend at a luxury spa hotel.

Arriving at The Manor Helen is expecting a weekend of champagne, pampering and laughs with old friends. But the one thing she hasn't planned for is running into her ex fiancé, the man who broke her heart, the man who has a secret he's desperate to share.

And then of course there's what the boys are up to in Amsterdam...

Told as two separate stories that have implications for both Helen and Phil's future happiness The Stag and Hen Weekend is a fresh and original story of a couple trying to get it right and all too often getting it spectacularly wrong.

The Stag's Story...

Phil is thrilled that Helen has finally accepted his proposal even though he practically had to bully her into it. But before the big day there's still one last ordeal to overcome: his stag weekend in Amsterdam.

Because even with his mates all pushing forty it's guaranteed to be less about clogs and tulips and more about getting off their faces and trawling bars for girls.

But when Phil gets talking to one such girl everything changes: not because he fancies her, or even because she's pretty, but because they have much in common, even if neither of them know it yet.

And then of course there's what the girls are up to at their luxury spa hotel...

Told as two separate stories that have implications for both Helen and Phil's future happiness The Stag and Hen Weekend is a fresh and original story of a couple trying to get it right and all too often getting it spectacularly wrong.

stag_hen_thumb.jpegThe Stag and Hen Weekend

by Mike Gayle

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Tell us how you came up with the idea for The Stag and Hen Weekend?

I was talking with my editor and agent about the next book and I mentioned that I'd been mulling over an idea about a couple and their respective stag and hen weekends. They both loved it instantly. The only thing was the idea wasn't anywhere near being fully formed and their enthusiasm sort of put me off. Finally I told them that I'd ditched the idea and they were really disappointed. That same night I came up with the idea for the two stories in one and was so fired up by it I called them the following morning and told them that I'd changed my mind.

How did the idea for telling the story this way come to you?

Funnily enough I'd thought about writing two stories covering the same period of time before but could never find the right subject matter and it was only when I'd given up on the Stags and Hens idea that it came back to me. What I really liked about it was getting a window into the world of two separate but connected events and the idea of the two stories somehow meeting in the middle.

How did the idea progress from there?

The real problem was to work out the extent to which the stories would be connected. For instance would characters in one story be aware of events taking place in the other story? Also I felt it was important that even though the stories were taking place at the same time they should have some impact on each other. And then of course there was the small issue of how to write an ending for one story that wouldn't reveal too much about the ending of the next story. It was a real headache of a task!

Which side did you write first? The Stag's side or the Hen's?

I spent ages agonising over this but in the end I opted for the hen's side because I reasoned it was going to be a lot more difficult, primarily, because I'd never been on a hen weekend but also because I felt I had to know who the character of Helen was before I could even think about her fiancé Phil.

Tell us more about Helen...

Helen's a great character. She's fun, she's strong and reliable but then she's got this one person from her past that she just doesn't seem to be able to get over and so when he walks back into her life it turns her whole world upside down.
You are of course talking about Aidan.

Yes Aidan is a great character to write. He's the complete opposite of Phil. Phil's very down to earth while Aidan is an overpaid radio DJ who is as charismatic as he is toxic. I liked the idea of creating a character for whom winning is everything but at the same time I didn't want him to be a pantomime villain. I think he genuinely does love Helen and feels terrible for the way he treated her when he was trying to get his career off the ground.

Tell us more about The Manor. Is it based on a real spa hotel?

The Manor is pretty much an amalgam of every posh spa hotel I've ever been to! I needed somewhere that would be the perfect setting for everything that was going to happen over the weekend that would also be the sort of place that monied celebrities might go to, hence the need for a golf-course!

Let's talk about the boys for a while. Amsterdam for a stag weekend— really?

I thought long and hard about setting it in Amsterdam because it seemed like a bit of a cliché but all the places I thought of as alternatives like Dublin or Prague just didn't have the same feel. What I liked about Amsterdam is that while it can be sleazy it is also an amazingly beautiful city and I liked the idea of these two sides of the city playing a part in the story.

Tell us how you came up with the boys' story.

Well as I said earlier I'd been wondering about how connected the stories should be and so for a long while when I was plotting Phil's storyline it was going to be about him meeting a Dutch woman and possibly falling in love with her. But the more I thought about Phil the more I realised that this wasn't going to happen because he really does love Helen. So then I thought, well what would make a guy who's in love fall for someone else? And that's when I realised that a) it was only going to happen if he had a reason to doubt Helen's fidelity and b) that in Sanne I finally had the connection to the girl's story that I needed.

Which brings us to the ending of the boys' story. Does Phil go home or doesn't he? We're dying to know!

As a rule I hate ambiguous endings because they feel like a bit of a cop out. What's the point of reading all the way through a novel just to be told the ending "might be this or it might be that?" I feel like saying, you're the author, you tell me! In this case however I think I can be forgiven because the book was always designed to have two endings and the fact that they're at odds with each other are important because then you're forced to look at the book as a whole and draw your own conclusions.

Tell us something about The Stag and Hen Weekend we don't know.

To research the Stag story I went to Amsterdam for the weekend with a mate. It was the least stag weekendy weekend I've ever had. I was ill and running a temperature and at one point thought I was going to have to fly home early. Anyway, on the Sunday afternoon we visited Vondlepark as I hadn't been there in years and as we were sitting there a pair of green parrots swooped down from a tree right in front of us and straight away I thought: that's going in book. It's only a small thing but it's small details like that often can make the story work.

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