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Life story of Pismo novelist involved a lot of rewrites

It was one of the odder gigs I’ve done: Introducing Marvel Comics’ Spiderman to groups of kids and parents at this year’s Central Coast Book and Author Festival. It was a resume-padding experience that anyone would covet, no doubt.

Why Spiderman? Because the tights-clad superhero gives a stirring, Silly String-infused presentation about how parents, teachers and librarians are superheroes in their own rights.

Spidey was just one page out of the Library Foundation of San Luis Obispo County’s recent resuscitation of its Book and Author Festival.

Another highlight was meeting a dozen or so local authors who seem to be making nice livings off their fiction and nonfiction works. One of those is Pismo Beach resident Gordon Snider, who just had his third novel, “The Hypnotist,” published by Helm Publishing.

The road to fiction writer has been a circuitous one for Snider. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an M.B.A. in marketing, he taught those courses at Pacific States University, where he met and married wife Fe.

Branching out into business and marketing consulting, he combined a love of travel with photography skills and put together promotional packages for the travel industry, which eventually led to trips to Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.

As if teaching, consulting and traveling weren’t enough, he also freelanced magazine articles and found time to write a couple of books — Winning Marketing Strategies and How to Become a Killer Competitor.

After a 30-year career, he and Fe, who retired as the librarian for the Hewlett Packard Foundation, moved to Pismo Beach in 1999 for the next phase of their lives.

Sporting a neatly trimmed beard, the 69-year-old Snider looks 10 years younger, a condition he attributes to the joy he gets out of writing.

And it’s apparent he gets a kick out of what he does: Although he has the precise diction of a college professor — which he’s been at four different universities including Cal Poly — he also laughs easily and often.

“On my first novel (Sigourney’s Quest, a mystery set in Tibet), I had to learn to write over again, because I’d been writing magazine articles and business books. So I learned a new craft. Got feedback from an agent, went to writing conferences and got an editor. Over the next three to four years, I learned how to write.”

His second book, The Separatist, took about a year-and-a-half to pen, while The Hypnotist took about a year. Each takes four or five rewrites.

“If you’re going to write fiction, you’re going to have to love rewriting,” he says with another laugh.

For those of you who have thought of trying fiction, here’s the drill, according to Snider.

Your first rewrite is just getting things down on paper: which characters are developing, motivations, tension points and arc of the theme.

Get those fleshed out.

“Your second rewrite, write for detail, development of the senses, what’s happening around the characters. Next is refining that, fleshing it out more, getting obvious conflicts in the plot ironed out. You continue to build and look at detail and building dialogue.”

And here are a couple of sobering points to consider in writing novels: Only about 4 percent of fiction books get published. “And agents aren’t interested unless you’ve been published, and publishers aren’t interested without an agent, so it’s a Catch-22 situation,” Snider explains.

But if you’re persistent in learning the craft and marketing your skills (“Writing is 50 percent of what I do, marketing is the other 50 percent,” he says), the rewards are limited only by one’s imagination.

He finds it’s a personal revelation as he takes the journey with his characters. And, interestingly, all of his protagonists have been female.

“I’m a marketing man, and about two-thirds of novel readers are women. So I’m targeting boomer women.” He adds that it’s “never been an issue that ‘women wouldn’t do this,’ so I have a good feel from that perspective.”

Snider is holding book signings at Morro Bay’s Coalesce Bookstore on Saturday, Nov. 14, from 1 to 3 p.m.; the following day, he’ll be at Border’s book store in Madonna Plaza from 1 to 4 p.m. Check out his titles at gordonbooks.250free.com

And the bottom line in being a novelist?

“I don’t have to worry about shielding a secret Swiss bank account,” he laughs, “but it makes a nice living.”

Bill Morem can be reached at bmorem@thetribunenews.com.

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