Bullying takes center stage in New Canaan author's debut novel

Many writers take inspiration from their experiences, Quentin Schaffer was inspired to write his debut novel by an event that occurred eight years ago.

The New Canaan resident recently published “Gods Of Sound: The Perilous Path Of Cameron Foster” after observing a situation that he felt was overly bureaucratic. Schaffer, who publishes under the pen name QM Schaffer, said he was also inspired to write his music fantasy based on his experiences with bullying. The author also said that he was able to finally devote time to writing his book after leaving his job, where he previously did publicity for HBO.

Schaffer recently spoke with TinaMarie Craven about his book.

TinaMarie Craven: How would you describe your book?

Quentin Schaffer: My book follows the story of a young boy, Cameron Foster, consistently bullied at school, who finds his only solace with his battered guitar. He is as skilled with it as Harry Potter is with a wand. A mysterious woman, clad in black leather, enters his life and major changes occur. But then, tragedy strikes and he winds up under the influence of a reclusive billionaire who may be harboring a deadly secret cult.

TC: What inspired you to write this novel?

QS: I’ve always had a disdain for bullies and bureaucrats having been both bullied and harassed. The idea originated eight years ago when my son was in fifth grade. My wife tried to sign him up for a middle school variety show because he was a very talented guitar player. But she was a day late in doing so and the woman in charge would make no exceptions; she was completely inflexible and bureaucratic. It bothered me. That incident then triggered thoughts of a boy facing overwhelming obstacles in his life which became the basis of the book.

TC: How did your earlier work at HBO help you craft your narrative?

QS: For me, HBO was a wonderful experience and turned out to be a Master Class in creativity. I worked there for nearly four decades, overseeing publicity for all its programming, including such iconic shows as “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” “Sex & the City,” “Girls,” “Euphoria,” “The Wire,” “Westworld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Big Little Lies” and many more. I had the benefit of witnessing master storytelling from the best in the business.

TC: What drew you to write a music focused fantasy?

QS: My lifelong love of music was a driving force. I appreciate all genres but, according to Spotify’s year-end report, I tend to migrate to grunge and rock. And over the years, I vicariously watched my son progress as a musician starting with Suzuki lessons and then several years at School of Rock in New Canaan. The fantasy element of the book came into play as I wanted the young boy’s journey to be somewhat magical at times. And in fantasy you can make the implausible plausible.

TC: What inspired you to incorporate themes around bullying into your story?

QS: I was a scrawny kid and experienced bullying in elementary, middle school and high school and then sexual harassment in my first two jobs. You feel helpless and alone. You can’t understand why you are being targeted. And you also know that if you tell on a bully, your life will go from atrocious to utterly miserable. So you find ways to survive. Thank goodness I didn’t have to deal with cyber bullying.

TC: How long did it take you to write this book?

QS: Although the idea arose eight years ago, I let it simmer in my head. Then a few years later, I sat down and wrote several chapters. And once I left my job at HBO a year ago, I focused on finishing it.

TC: What is your writing process like?

QS: At times my wife thinks I’m crazy because I always have millions of ideas floating around in my head. As they begin to germinate, I rush to put them to paper. My preferred time to write is morning, after I’ve exercised, had coffee and read the papers. I’ll then write for 6-8 hours. When things are going really well, I can go as long as 12 hours.

TC: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

QS: Throughout my life I’ve had a passion for underdogs or outcasts. They are the ones often bullied. The book aims to provide hope and a voice for the defenseless so they feel less alone. Many years ago, when I got divorced, I had a six year old daughter who visited me several days a week. At the time, she was the only one in her grade from a divorced family. And being an only child, she felt very alone. I remember hearing about a new book in England. I went to the book store in Stamford and ordered it. It was Harry Potter. No one had even heard of it back then. I read chapters to my daughter when we were together and we both disappeared into that world. Magical. I hope my book can do the same for someone.