Cherryvale native Louise Brooks, who grew up in Wichita and became a silent screen siren, was a very real person. Cora Carlisle, however, is a fictional creation.

The two come together in “The Chaperone,” a novel written by Laura Moriarty, professor of creative writing at the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

Moriarty will talk about her book at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Pittsburg Public Library. Her appearance is being underwritten by the Friends of  the Library.
Preceding her talk will be a Louise Brooks look-alike contest at 1:45 p.m. No prior registration is required to enter.

In a telephone interview, the author said she got the first idea for writing the book while browsing in a bookstore. She picked up a book on flappers, a term applied to young western women in the 1920s. They shocked respectable members of society by bobbing their hair, wearing short skirts and what was considered excessive makeup, drinking, smoking and treating sex in a casual manner.

“There was a chapter in the book on Louise Brooks,” Moriarty said. “She was the way she looked, dark, intense, very beautiful, talented, troubled, an alcoholic, very intelligent.”

The author read about a trip Brooks took in 1922, at the age of 15, to New York City to study at the Denishawn School of Dance, founded by dancers Ruth St. Denis and husband Ted Shawn.

“She was accompanied by a chaperone, a 36-year-old housewife from Wichita,” Moriarty said. “The trip must have been a nightmare. Louise was hot-headed and did what she wanted all the time.”

She added that Brooks devoted only one paragraph to Alice Mills in her memoir “Lulu in Hollywood,” but that was all right, because Moriarty did not base her chaperone on the real one.

“My goal from the start was to invent this woman, completely create her,” Moriarty said. “However, everything in my book about Louise is absolutely true.”

She had some concern in the beginning that readers might be expecting a book about Brooks, though she actually plays a supporting rather than star role in “The Chaperone.”

This doesn’t seem to be happening.

“Most people, it seems, are pretty won over by Cora,” Moriarty said.

Cora offers to accompany the teenager to New York City, not to get away from Wichita on a lark, but for serious reasons of her own. As a child, she was sent from New York to Kansas on an orphan train. Though she is now a lawyer’s wife and has a comfortable life, Cora very much wants to dig  into her roots, perhaps find her birth mother.

Brooks hopes to join the Denishawn Dancers so she won’t have to go back to Kansas. She was indeed a company member for two years, but did get back to her home state. In February of  1924 she danced with the company in Pittsburg.

She went on to become a silent film star, appearing in such movies as “A Girl in Every Port” in 1928 as well as several light comedies and flapper movies.

However, she hated the Hollywood scene and went to Europe to make such “shocking” films as “Pandora’s Box,” “Diary of a Lost Girl” and “Prix de Beaute.”

“Louise made a lot of not-helpful to herself  decisions all the time,” Moriarty said.

Her two brief marriages both ended in divorce. Neither they nor her many affairs produced any children, and she died alone in 1985 at the age of 78.

“She was such a fascinated older woman,” Moriarty said. “Her beauty was gone, and her intelligence began to shine through.”

There’s a good chance that “The Chaperone” will be turned into movie. Actress Elizabeth McGovern, who narrated the audiobook and plays the Duchess of Grantham in “Downton Abbey,” would play Cora.

“Julian Fellowes, ‘Downton Abbey’s’ creator is writing the screenplay, and Simon Curtis, who did ‘My Week with Marilyn’, will be the director for Fox Searchlight,” Moriarty said.

Not every book optioned for a movie doesn’t actually make it onto the screen, and Moriarty is well aware of that. Still, she thinks “The Chaperone” has a good chance.

“It looks like it might make it,” she said. “A lot of incredibly talented people are interested.”

Moriarty received a bachelor of social work and master of arts in English from KU and was awarded the George Bennett Fellowship for Creative Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy. She is also the author of “The Center of Everything,” “The Rest of Her Life” and “While I’m Falling.”

She hasn’t definitely settled on her next book, and may not get back down to writing for a while. For one thing, she’s a professor as well as a writer.

“I like the rhythm of teaching a while, and I learn from my colleagues and my students,” Moriarty said. “I’m mulling around on an idea, and I’ll be off next year.”