Today’s special blog guest is Kyle Taylor. He’s sharing about his newest book, Wildflower: The Dramatic Life of Barbette – Round Rock’s First and Greatest Drag Queen as part of a virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions.
Kyle will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to the person who leaves the best question or comment. To be entered for a chance to win, leave a comment below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit other tour stops and leave comments there, too.
The character of Kyle Taylor debuted in the novel Billion Dollar Dreamer as a journalist who was assigned to write a story about high school history teacher cum overnight billionaire John Driskil. Kyle is an award-winning journalist who writes for the gay magazine, The Advisor. He grew up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, attending private schools with other trust fund punks. He graduated from Harvard University and is presently dating billionaire philanthropist, John Driskil. Oh yeah, he is a complete work of fiction.
Welcome, Kyle. Please tell us about your current release.
Wildflower is the story of a real-life person, Vander Clyde Broadway, who grew up in a small town north of Austin, Texas, called Round Rock in the early 1900’s. Vander sees the circus as a child and is transfixed. He’s a runt of a boy with big dreams. At sixteen he leaves Round Rock and tries out with the Alfaretta Sisters aerial act. They are a trapeze and high wire act. Vander has to wear drag in order to get the gig. From there he just develops his act into a highly-stylized drag impersonation of a female aerialist, who he calls ‘Barbette’. He eventually caught the attention of talent agent William Morris, who books him in London and then Paris where he becomes a sensation.
But that is just the start of his adventures! This is a guy who should have been washed up in his late thirties after a devastating bout of polio, but he is tough as nails and becomes a highly respected director of aerial ballets for the Ringling Circus. He associates with some of the greatest cinematic directors of his day – Minnelli, Welles, Cukor. Every decade is a new challenge.
There is a grit to Barbette’s story – a Seabiscuit sort of quality to his life, I really tried to bring out.
What inspired you to write this book?
For my last two books, Exposition and Billion Dollar Dreamer, I had very specific outlines for each work set up before the actual writing.
For this book, I had a very different sort of outline than what actually came of it. I was going to do a parallel sort of story – juxtaposing 1914 Barbette with another modern young person growing up in Round Rock in 2014. Both were gay and I wrestled with the question, what was different then versus now?
But as I kept digging into Barbette, and retrieving little tidbits from parts of his life, I was totally captivated by his story. His career spanned far longer than I first knew. And he encountered fascinating people of his era. So I decided to scrap my original plan and work just with material from Barbette’s life.
Crowning the side of her head was the smartest crimson hat Vander had ever seen. If her appearance wasn’t striking enough, there was the matter of the fully grown cheetah walking alongside her. Lean and slinking on a sparkling chain attached to a jeweled collar, the cheetah most certainly put the woman over the top. Passersby cleared a path for the woman and her wild animal as she made way down the street—the woman’s head held high and mischievously proud, pretending not to notice the commotion she was causing as she made way.
“Please! Stop looking at her!” Radiguet begged.
“Josephine!” Cocteau remarked with some excitement and knowing. “Your only true competitor—the great Josephine Baker! Look at how she walks down the street—African queen of the jungle! I don’t know what they are putting into the water in America to grow such exotic flowers as you both.”
Vander was well aware of Josephine Baker. Her scandalous dance, where she only wore a skirt of bananas tied low about her hips, was the talk of Paris. If Barbette’s star shone bright, Josephine Baker was a super nova.
“She has a cheetah!” Vander exclaimed.
“Yes!” Radiguet said extremely agitated. He held his hand up to the side of his face to hide his visage from her so she would not recognize him if she turned her head toward the front window of Harry’s. “The cheetah has an unpleasant disposition!” Radiguet warned. “Chiquita is her name. She terrifies me! How Josephine is not arrested on the spot for having such an animal roaming the streets!”
Vander could do nothing by gape.
“Don’t look her way or she will come over!” Radiguet hastened.
“It is a good thing Princess Violette is at home, because you know she would have made a big fuss,” Cocteau added. “It seems the princess fancies Josephine. She excites her. She finds her fascinating.”
“In all my time in America, I’ve never seen a Negro looking like that!” Vander exclaimed. He watched Josephine move down the street, like an exotic cat herself—so strong and confident, yet her eyes were vivid and alert tingling with a hint of mirth. The woman owned the street, with or without her pet cheetah!
Then, almost directly across from Harry’s Bar, a blonde driver in a black, gold-braided uniform emerged from a long, white Rolls Royce with sweeping lines and fancy running boards. The chauffer opened the rear door to the stunning automobile. Josephine was ten paces from the car. She released the cheetah’s lead and the cat leapt inside of the auto in a single bound. Josephine smiled at her driver as she stepped into the car.
“Unbelievable!” Vander remarked, eyes wide open. “I’m not in Round Rock, Texas anymore!”
“You most certainly are not!” Cocteau replied with a flourish.
“Thank god she is driving away,” Radiguet said, quickly downing his Bloody Mary to settle his nerves.
“If there is one way to keep autograph hounds from running up, that is it!” Cocteau smiled. He too downed is midday cocktail and turned to Vander. He pushed back from the table. “Now, we must head onto our next great adventure. Vander, my dear, have you ever seen a pornographic film?”
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve written three major novels in three years. Each of them necessitated a great deal of research. I’ve decided to take a break this summer – travel and relax. I do have another subject for the next Kyle Taylor book, but I need to do more research. We will see if I stay with that after a long rest.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I really consider myself more of a director. I think each of my books are very visual and told in a cinematic sort of way. I don’t know if I can ever be a writer. They are too talented.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I have a fulltime job and I also write freelance. Putting a book together is a craft. I am very disciplined and will work on the craft every day after my day job. You have to really feel passionate about it. There’s no way to write four hundred pages half-assed. You will lose enthusiasm long before you finish.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My home has to be clean and smell nice before I write. I will dust and tidy up everything so it feels settled in my mind. I have certain lights in my living room I must have on – no matter how much light is coming into the room. I am completely OCD about it.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be interesting enough to be interviewed on the Mike Douglas show!
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Wildflower was the first book I crafted entirely on my own. The images for the print book, the font choices – everything was my vision. I became obsessed with trying to tell Barbette’s story in a way that would honor who he was. I hope the work makes people want to know more about this fascinating performer!