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Interview: James Beamon on “The Rhythm Man”

Tell us a bit about “The Rhythm Man.”

James BeamonThe Rhythm Man reads as it does because as a writer I’m quasi-sometimey.  A lot of times I look at a new story idea not just as a new plot to resolve or new characters to develop, but new ways to tell a story… at least “new” to me.  You know, just a “lemme try something I’ve never done” approach to handle these emerging characters and plot lines.  In that sense of doing just this one story in this one particular way, The Rhythm Man embodies my quasi-sometiminess.  Here, I wanted to make the words sing in the most literal way possible for plain words on a page, to hook you with their beat and have them drum out a rhythm in your head while you read.  That desire to tap out a groove directly on brain cells led to the development of a story about music, about looking for the perfect beat set two eras before Soul Sonic Force.

I’m cool with being dated by name-dropping Soul Sonic Force.  I’m not cool if people start using “quasi-sometimey” in their vocab and I don’t get an attribution in urban dictionary or something.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

It’s funny that you say prompt, because a writing prompt is exactly what brought the story about.  I’m in Codex Writer’s Group (love ’em!) which hosts contests all the time.  The particular contest challenged us to write a story about a random scene provided by another Codexian.  The illustrious Laurel Amberdine sent me a scene involving a train car.  The lush description in the train is based on her vivid details.  I took it and worked it into a beat.


Was “The Rhythm Man” personal to you in any way? If so, how?

I imagine most writers say “yes” to this question but I’m firmly on Team No here.  The scene was given to me, the conceit was already playing its rhythm and tone out in my head… it was kinda already on autopilot and simply looking for a stick nudge.  That nudge came from borrowing a bit from some research I was already doing for my second novel involving Vodun loa to create the Rhythm Man.  At that point it was just a matter of making sure everything played well together on the page and finding a good home for it.  Here’s where I thank you guys again!


How was it for you putting a new spin on the “bluesman makes a deal with a supernatural being” story?

Fun!  I really enjoyed going outside of the whole devil-crossroads-soul thing and home-brewing an old wives’ tale of my own.  I was able to focus on more tangible forms of currency that may be of interest to a being who cares nothing for paper.  What are your motivations?  What skills do you have?  What things of real value do you possess and are willing to give up for that thing you crave?  I think it makes Horace’s choices more relatable because we can see these skills and things he values up for barter with a being who isn’t snake-tongued selling a guy on his own ultimate ruin.


What are you working on now?
Nowadays I’m finishing the draft of my third novel.  At this point I’ll hit another milestone of completed my first fantasy trilogy.  Then comes the harder part of finding a book deal for them!


“The Rhythm Man” appears in the November/December 2016 issue of F&SF.

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You can find out more about James Beamon by visiting his blog:


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