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“More fun than a sex party!”
BLURB: Long before Ru Paul eyed his first pair of six inch stilettos or Boy George donned his colorful caftan, a handsome young man from the small town of Round Rock, Texas barnstormed the stages of Europe’s most lavish theaters and night clubs as Barbette, a beautiful aerialist drag queen who became a scandalous sensation throughout the Roaring Twenties.
Performing his erotic, high wire and trapeze routine in lavish, feminine regalia, Barbette shocked audiences by revealing the true nature of his gender at the very end of his act.
From a child who picked cotton and walked his mother’s clothes line to headlining at the Moulin Rouge in spectacular drag, Wildflower reveals long-forgotten secrets of this enigmatic performer: his arrest in London on morals charges, his bout with polio, his infamous collaborations with some of Hollywood’s greatest stars— Orson Welles, Vincente Minnelli, and Judy Garland, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis as well as his hidden affair with French surrealist Jean Cocteau.
Wildflower captivates with every page, dramatically revealing the startling and at times heart-breaking story of Round Rock’s first and greatest drag queen.
With all his might, Vander swung the trapeze as high into the air as he could tolerate, the muscles in his feet screaming out. As he reached the apex, he released his feet, tucked into a tight ball and did a backward somersault. In an instant, he was bouncing on the safety net, thrilled by what he had just done!
Bobby Fuller stuffed his cigar into his mouth and applauded loudly. Audrey too was impressed. From the platform, she did a swan dive, turning onto her back at the right instant for a soft landing on the safety net. She then walked over to where Bobby and Vander were standing.
“Now, son, I need you to be honest with me. You’re new to this aren’t you?” Bobby asked as he stared intently at Vander.
“I did shows in my back yard—on the wire. I’m good!” Vander said trying to sell himself. He wanted more than anything to get back up to the trapeze.
“You a run away?” Audrey asked with her hands on her hips.
“No. My momma sent me off today on the train, from Round Rock.”
“He’s got balance,” Audrey said. “It’ll take him time to train.”
“I’m a fast learner! I even doubled up my studies and finished high school two years early!”
Bobby rubbed his chin. “We’ve only got a week, ten days tops, to get him trained. If we don’t get this act back on track, they’ll can us and then where’ll we be?”
Audrey’s pale blue eyes looked serious. “Did you see, how he moved his arms? He sure looks the part. He’ll look sweet in a dress.”
Vander’s mouth dropped. “A dress?”
Bobby Fuller scowled, “The part’s for a female trapeze artist. Didn’t y’all read the advertisement?”
“We’re the Alfaretta Sisters!” Audrey interjected. “World famous aerial queens.”
Vander Clyde was trying to absorb what they were saying.
“He’s got a good figure, not quite a man yet,” Audrey said looking over Vander’s body. “A little taking in here and letting out there and Lydia’s costumes could fit.”
“You ever put on a dress, boy?” Bobby asked. “It’s no big deal. Wouldn’t be the first time a boy in a trapeze act did it.”
“You look better in a dress, up on a trapeze,” Audrey encouraged. “More beautiful, the dress flows, you know.”
Vander remembered Miss Nelson told him all the actors during Shakespeare’s time were men or boys and they played the female parts as well.
“Like Shakespeare, you mean the way the boys played the girl’s parts?” Vander asked.
Bobby and Audrey laughed.
“Yes, son, just like ol’ Will Shakespeare!” Bobby chuckled. “You’ll get five dollars a week—no pay until we get the act back up. Deal?” Bobby extended his hand.
Vander Clyde couldn’t believe it was all happening so fast! He enthusiastically extended his hand. “Deal!”
Book List: (Most recent to oldest): Wildflower: The Dramatic Life of Barbette, Round Rock’s First and Greatest Drag Queen, Exposition, and Billion Dollar Dreamer.
Bio: The Kyle Taylor character debuted in Billion Dollar Dreamer as a journalist who was assigned to write a story about high school history teacher cum overnight billionaire John Driskil. He resides in New York—and of course he is a work of fiction!
How do you usually come up with a story idea? Dreams? Writer’s journal? Eavesdropping on conversations? Newspaper?
My orbits of interest are history—things that catch my attention usually have some sort of historical aspect to them. For Wildflower, I read an item in the paper about Barbette, a Roaring Twenties drag queen. I just had to learn more. Exposition was inspired by a conversation I had with one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last living apprentices. I wrote Billion Dollar Dreamer when I was shocked to see the fabled ocean liner, the SS United States, was going to be scrapped.
Who or what inspires you when your creative mojo is lagging?
I love summer holidays! When my creativity is lagging, it’s usually because I’m exhausted. A little rest and travel and look out, those ideas start bubbling up!
Who is your Yoda—your seasoned mentor?
A Norbertine Monk. I don’t want to disclose his name. He taught me everything matters in writing. That’s why Kyle Taylor novels have so many little historical details.
What importance do you place on writing workshops? What workshops would you recommend to us?
I much prefer working with a good editor. They are so instructive and personal. I have two wonderful editors at the magazine I write for who have been crazy-helpful.
What person would you like to thank for inspiring you in your writing aspirations? How did this person help you?
There are a couple of characters in Billion Dollar Dreamer, the small-time lawyer Humberto Cabral and his husband Abe—the real Humberto and Abe have been completely enthusiastic and have pushed me to write more!
Have you ever used songs for inspiration?
Yes!! In all of my novels, music plays an integral role. I love juxtaposing songs with action. Or a song will help paint a picture of a character. At the beginning of Billion Dollar Dreamer, the hero’s cell phone goes off. He has a ring tone of Barry Manilow’s Copa Cabana. That fact speaks volumes about the hero!
I will also listen to particular music while I write a novel. When I wrote Exposition, I swear, I must have listened to my Pachelbel Pandora selection a couple of hundred times!
Do you play music when you write? If so, what kind? Or, do you have to have silence or background noise to set your writing muse free?
(See my scintillating answer above.)
Do you read in a different genre than you write? If yes, why? If you read in the same genre that you write, do you feel that it influences your writing in any way?
I read tons of historical nonfiction. I’m also a news junkie. A book like Seabiscuit certainly inspired the writing in Wildflower. There are segments of narration which are more ample than typical historical fiction, which I’m sure came from that wonderful book. I loved Devil in the White City, but purposely refused to reread it while I was writing Exposition—because books shared characters and a world’s fair. I needed to find my own way to describe the characters. Instead I read a lot of Jane Austen.
What is your process from idea to first draft?
Wildflower was my anomaly book. I’m usually very methodical and create five acts with at least ten major scenes per act. In my mind, I actually wanted the Barbette story to be a parallel story juxtaposed with a contemporary one of a gay teenager growing up in Round Rock today. I had that all outlined and started writing. But as I kept learning more about Barbette, I realized his life was far too interesting. He needed to stand alone.
Have you ever given assistance to a struggling new writer? Has another writer ever come to your aide? How?
I don’t feel accomplished enough yet. Maybe when I’m much older.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
I love having a physical copy of a novel I’ve created. Seeing it in your hands is magical!
If you won the big lottery, what would you do with the money? Would give any of it to charity? If so, which one?
Of course I would renovate the SS United States ocean liner!
What is the best advice you want to give to a new writer?
You most likely won’t make any money writing novels, but that’s where your soul will be.
If you could choose an animal for a mascot, what animal would it be? What do you admire about this animal? Do you feel you have qualities similar to this animal? If so, what are they?
Golden Retriever! My best friend is a golden and his name is Winston. He makes cameos in all three of my books. He’s patient, intelligent, athletic and loves a good belly rub—just like his master!
If money, education and fear factors were set aside, what three careers would you like to attempt other than writing?
Being a writer is so tremendously soul-satisfying. What else could there be?
If money, talent and fear were no object, what big adventure would you like to have?
To live the life of the hero John Driskil, in Billion Dollar Dreamer. His fortune lets him unleash a torrent of creative ideas which take him around the globe.
What characteristics do you like to instill in your heroes? What characteristics do you feel are necessary for a good heroine?
I really like flawed heroes and heroines. I try to create leads who have aspects of themselves that are unfinished or unattractive. I think that makes them more interesting.
If you had the power to change two things in the world, what would those two things be?
Absolutely end poverty. Improve health conditions around the world. Can I also add world peace? No, really—I mean it. Let there be peace on earth.
If could have a super power for a day, what would it be? Why?
I would love to fly, like Superman. Just pick up and go. The experience must be completely transcendent.