The Body’s Beat: Jane Candia Coleman on Writing and Music

Jane Candia Coleman is the author of many books, including Bandit Queen and Range Queen (due out next month).  The daughter of classically trained singers, Coleman has played piano and harpsichord for most of her life.

For more about Coleman, check out “Content Dictates Form,” an interview in the Writing the West series here at BookLifeNow.

Below Coleman talks about her lifelong love of music.
Jane Candia Coleman: First, in regard to rhythm.  I think all good writing has its own rhythm, its own “metre,” and oddly I learned this from writing my own rough drafts with pen and paper, stopping to think of the right words, the right phrase with enough syllables and the correct meaning to balance out both rhythm and meaning.  I do not think that writing on a keyboard can teach the same thing.  The writing has to come out of the body and the body’s beat.

Second.  I love all music – rock n roll, folk music, jazz, country, and classical, from the medieval to Bach to Porgy and Bess.  There is something to be learned from every musical form – the heart, soul, and intellect of the composers, the people, their lives, the pure fun as in some of Mozart and Hayden, to the mathematical, intellectual, as in Bach, to the sounds and rhythms of a city, as in Rhapsody in Blue.  What can we learn?  A mood, a mind-set, a place and the people who live in that time and place and reflect it in their music and writing.

Third.  Timing.  In any extended musical composition timing is critical. There is a time to be serious, a time for fun, a time for crescendo, and an understanding of how to approach and do closure.  By which I mean how everything is wrapped up, themes, plot, character, mathematics, as in Bach, who did it so perfectly, and in writing where we must all do the same thing and leave not only an echo of what might have been but a sense of satisfaction that everything is wrapped up right and tight.

I could go on indefinitely!  My life with music has definitely made a mark on my writing.  I think my ear for music has helped immeasurably, particularly in poetry which, after all, is or should be, akin to dance.


Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher.  He is the Staff Interviewer for Clarkesworld Magazine and a frequent contributor to Kobold Quarterly.  He teaches at Wofford College and Montessori Academy in Spartanburg, SC.  He is also the director of Shared Worlds, a creative writing and world-building camp for teenagers that he and Jeff VanderMeer designed in 2006.