I didn’t set out to write a novel. Cherry Blossom Footsteps was the first piece of creative writing I had done, and it began after an overseas trip when I had to finish writing my trip diary at home. I’d enjoyed writing the diary, so I thought why not try my hand at some creative writing. I opted for the genre I was most practised at – travel writing.

It was intended to be a short story, but having written an outline and made a start, it soon turned into long-form writing. And once I got going, I got right onto it.

A relaxing activity

Gail Holloway writing

At the time, my day job was very stressful. I would come home and lose myself in the writing. My enjoyment came in simply choosing words, putting them together in order, and learning about the subjects.

Within six months I had written 40,000 words. Over summer I had a few weeks off and wrote another 15,000.

Writing was clearly a source of stress management.

I decided at that stage not to concern myself with the theory of writing. Instead I simply wrote straight from head to keyboard. So, if you find yourself with time on your hands, I can recommend creative writing.

After my initial burst, work eased and life got in the way. It took many years to get around to completing the story.

It was only after I got to the end that I undertook some learning and was able to go back and refine what I’d written.

Travel stories

Cherry Blossom Footsteps is a simple story – of a young woman heading overseas for the first time, travelling independently with only a loose plan on where to go and what to see. My own first experience of independent overseas travel was to Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, and it was a revelation.

I’ve been to Japan again since, and to Hong Kong twice again. I’ve also visited many other countries on several continents and have a love for independent travel. I’ve never travelled on an organised tour. Doing your own thing is much more interesting and full of opportunity.

Lots of the stories in Cherry Blossom Footsteps are experiences I took straight from my own travel diaries. But I’m not telling which.

Gail and Yoshiko in Kyoto 2017
Gail with host Yoshiko in Kyoto, 2017.

Read more in my blog Gail’s 2007 – A Game-changer