Local Financial Advisor’s Investment Pays Off In Novel SanTan Sun News

Local Financial Advisor’s Investment Pays Off In Novel

Local Financial Advisor’s Investment Pays Off In Novel
Arts
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By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

A longtime financial advisor with a passion for history and love of sci-fi is thrilled his investment in writing has paid off in the form of his first novel.

Howard Gershkowitz, 62, a Chandler resident for 19 years, wrote “The Operator,” a fictional novel set in Prescott that involves time travel, the economy and romance. Independent publishing company All Things That Matter Press published it.

Gershkowitz has worked in the financial services industry for 34 years and is a financial advisor in Scottsdale. Born in New York City, he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey but after getting a job in engineering decided it wasn’t the right field for him.

Prior to moving to Arizona, he also owned an engraving business in New York for a few years and then reestablished the engraving company, which he owned with his wife, Lisa, and another business partner, and ran for several years in Chandler.

“Writing is what I hope to be my next career,” Gershkowitz said. “I’ve always journaled. I’ve always written poetry. I always wanted to be a writer, but I knew I had to earn a living. My son works with me. He’s also my best friend. He and I talk about everything. On my 55th birthday I said, ‘If I don’t start writing soon, I may never get it done.’”

He said his son, Robert Gershkowitz, a financial planner, recommended writing classes. The determined Howard has taken classes at community colleges and Arizona State University’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, as well as in workshops around the country.

He juggles writing in between his full-time job and spending time with Lisa, Robert and his two grandchildren: Oliver, 10; and Emmery, 3, kids to Robert and Robert’s wife, Darcy. Howard typically wakes up by 4:30 a.m, writes for an hour and a half, and then again at 2 p.m. after the stock market closes.

He usually holes up in his garage, which is converted to a writing studio, or a Starbucks in Chandler.

“People told me I have a natural talent for it,” he said. “Coming up with ideas for stories and poetry and even novels isn’t a problem. You need to be able to work on characterization and the plot.”

Howard has been writing for more than seven years but got inspired to write “The Operator” in January 2015 when he and Lisa visited Hassayampa Inn in Prescott, where they saw an old switchboard.

He said the hotel “is rumored to be haunted” and imagined what it would be like if he awakened in 1929 and met a character named Talia Sanders, a hotel switchboard operator.

The main character, Harold, brings his wife, Laura, on vacation to Prescott and gets into what Howard called a “squirmhole,” a term he invented to mean a method of time travel without breaking any laws of physics.

In the book, Harold travels back to 1929, where he meets and has an affair with Talia and the two try to stop the Great Depression from happening. However, the author said Harold wakes up in the present and realizes nothing has changed other than Talia “invested appropriately after the market crashed.”

Harold also learns Talia left him with a billion-dollar fortune, along with instructions on how to stop another national financial collapse.

Harold must deal with Talia’s son, who will do anything to get control of the money, and he must find his way through a political world in Washington, where he crosses paths with a dangerous power broker who has his own agenda.

The saying that art imitates life is partly true with “The Operator.” Howard said the character Laura is based on his wife and that Talia reminds him of her when she was younger.

Howard had already written two other books which have not been published yet, but said “The Operator” came together smoothly for him.

“I had some excellent assistance from various authors,” he said. “I didn’t expect it honestly as soon as it came out. Everyone I talked to said, ‘It’s gonna take you ten years.’ When I saw the first copy it was like having a baby. Literally it felt like that. Finally, it’s real. There are no words to describe it.”

One author he learned from was Steven James, a national best-selling novelist who held a novel workshop in Tennessee. Howard said participating in that workshop helped him “get over the hump.”

“Howard is an imaginative author who brings great detail and a sense of place to his work,” James said.

Howard also learned from Patrick Finn, residential faculty in English and creative writing at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. He took a class from Finn.

“What set Howard apart from many in the classroom was his curiosity and tenacity,” Finn said. “He wanted to know everything there was to know about writing fiction, and when he learned those qualities, he dedicated his imaginative efforts to bringing his stories to life on the page – draft after draft, until he got better and better.

“And that’s why he can now point to his own published book on the shelf. Anyone who wants to write a book needs to follow Howard’s formula: you have to want it, and that want must manifest itself in a daily effort of hard work.”

Perhaps Howard’s biggest fans are his family members. Robert and Lisa are proud of him for writing and getting his novel published, as are their other family members.

“I am just super excited for him,” Lisa said. “I’m so glad that he was able to accomplish the goal that he set out to. He’s just so excited about it, as is the entire family. It is a very interesting story. He has quite the imagination, and it’s just something you don’t see out there every day. I’m anxious for a lot more people to get their hands on it.”

She is impressed Howard was able to find time to write the novel.

“That’s what everybody marvels at is that he’s been able to carve out that niche of time that’s required for him to get this goal done,” Lisa said. “He’s been able to do that in and amongst all of his other obligations.”

Robert, 31, said his father is great at juggling multiple tasks at once.

“Obviously I’m very proud of what he’s done,” he said. “Certainly, since I’ve known him, he’s always got his hands in a couple areas. He was a business owner. He’s always been an entrepreneur. I wouldn’t expect anything less. He’s one of the smartest people that I know. He’s a very persistent person. The story’s great and he’s always been into sci-fi. He’s always been into fiction. He touches on the financial universe … topics he’s lived and breathed.”

Robert said his son, Oliver, is fascinated that his grandfather wrote a book.

“Out of all the people that I think this has impacted the most has been my son,” he said. “He already had my dad as a hero. Oliver is absolutely impacted the most by this.”

When coming to Howard’s book signings, Oliver has followed him around and “his eyes are just gigantic,” Robert said.

“The Operator” has five-star ratings on Amazon.com and on Goodreads.com.

“The Operator” is available at Changing Hands Bookstore at 6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe, and online at Amazon.com.

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