Monday, February 16, 2009

The Advent of Simone DeFleurry

The Advent of Simone DeFleurry in The Jade Owl
by Edward C. Patterson

One might think that to pop in a compelling character like Simone DeFleurry — a drag queen, into a fantasy adventure like The Jade Owl is a simple matter of adding spice to a story. However, nothing could be further from the truth. If an author is to entice a reader with developing character arc, such "devices," rarely work except on reruns of Murder She Wrote. Simone, who has consistently been reckoned by my readers as their favorite character, is never too far away from that other persona — Simon Geldfarb. When I decided that a principle character would be a chanteuse of note, I sorted out my own experiences concerning drag queens. To the outer world, and even the inner, drag queens are men dressed as women, outrageously over the top and something of an entertainment perk, representing the Gay male community at Gay Pride Parades. Nothing could be further from the truth. That most cross dressers are heterosexual men who glam about in their wives bras and undies is a statistical fact (I allude to it in The Jade Owl). Simone DeFleurry is a charmer — a fashion plate and a walking encyclopedia on good taste and manners. He provides Nick Battle with love and companionship as part of the double-barreled mailbox label "Geldfarb-Battle." His view of problems are often so direct, the others miss the obvious until the poignant Miss DeFleurry points the way. Simone manages some glorious feats of bravery throughout the series with swagger and posh.

When I began writing The Jade Owl, my vision of drag queens was narrow — shallow. To pepper the story with one or two could have been misconstrued as pushing stereotypes, and that would never do. I therefore opted to sit down and get to know some drag queens. It’s odd that, having degrees in Sinology, I needed little additional research into Chinese culture. Being Gay, one would think that every gay man knows the inner soul of a drag queen. WRONG. Being honest — telling my interviewees that I wanted to capture the true essence of who they were, was a bold thing to ask. I was surprised to discovered a sub-culture beneath a sub-culture that was beautiful — rich and rare. Very human, and in Simone’s own words — "I am as much a man as you are, only packaged differently." The aspects of the people beneath the boas and high heels astounded me. After all, it was the drag queens that had the bravery to start the whole Stone Wall Revolution that began the modern Gay & Lesbian Activist Movement. There were no yelling and screaming Act Up bravos then; just a fiery brace of drag queens, who demanded their rights. Simone DeFleurry represents that brand of fire — the beautiful home hearth that lights the way to a natural and normalized way of life — one that gives Nick Battle the embodiment of a father/mother/wife. One that holds the candle high for Rowden Gray, so he might grow into his own acceptance of things different. In fact, for the reader — who should feel more uncomfortable when Simone dresses as Simon Geldfarb, complete with a yellow lemon tie than when he wears his favorite red polka-dot sun dress. The sadness of Simon as opposed to the lilt of Simone is crucial.

An essential requirement for me as the author of the Jade Owl Legacy Series was to make the reader forget that the story has a drag queen amongst its stars. By the third book, The Dragon’s Pool, Simone DeFleurry is a vessel that can hold even a greater responsibility — graduating to motherhood. However, since number three in the series will not hit the streets until May, I’ll say no more.

Edward C. Patterson

The Jade Owl Legacy SeriesThe Jade Owl Third Peregrination coming soon The Dragon’s Pool, The People’s Treasure and In the Shadow of Her Hem Also coming soon, an adjunct series Southern Swallow (In Three Parts)The Academician(mid-March), Swan Cloud, and The House of Green Waters

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