Q&A with Jenni Walsh, Becoming Bonnie

What inspired you to be a writer?

I’ve always loved being creative, which led me to spending ten years as an advertising copywriter. The ad business can be pretty regulated. It’s commonplace for a project to look night and day from where it began, after the client has his/her way with it. Writing a novel was a bit of a creative release, where I could write for myself. Until, of course, my editor entered the process, haha, but we shared a very similar vision for the book.

If you could collaborate with any author past or present, who would it be?

This is really hard. There are many authors who would be amazing, but honestly, I’d love to write a book with my critique partner, Carolyn Menke, at some point in time. She’d probably know what I’m thinking before I think it ☺

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

Anything written by Ruta Sepetys. Her books ooze emotion.

When people talk about the infamous duo Bonnie & Clyde, we seldom hear much about Bonnie. Your upcoming debut, Becoming Bonnie, tells us the untold story about her. Tell us about it.

Becoming Bonnie is the story of how Bonnie becomes the Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde. The novel begins with her as Bonnelyn, a fictional name I dreamed up to depict her as a wholesome, church-going gal. By the novel’s end, she’s Bonnie, half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo.

That transformation is the crux of the story, taking a young girl who was promised the American dream but who was instead given the Great Depression. The circumstances, hurdles, and obstacles she faces all lead to the pinnacle moment where she falls for a convicted felon—and turns to crime herself.

Interestingly enough, this story isn’t the one I first sought to tell. Driven by my desire to write the story of an iconic figure, I first began writing my own version of Bonnie and Clyde’s 1930s crime spree. I quickly put on the brakes, realizing I first needed readers to understand who Bonnie really was. What made her tick? What was her background? Why was she so loyal to Clyde Barrow? So I put what I’d written aside, hoping to one day use it in a sequel, and started over, going back five years to tell Bonnie Parker’s origin story, which also allowed me to drop Bonnie into a 1920s speakeasy in the middle of a foxtrot. Now that was a good time.

It’s always great to find authors that feature strong female characters. Your debut, as well as your upcoming children books, will emphasize that. Is that something intended? If not, how do you feel about the importance of strong female characters represented in a

My forthcoming middle grade nonfiction series, Brave Like Me, will feature women who, at a young age, accomplished daring feats of perseverance and bravery. I’m kicking off the series with two books, one about Bethany Hamilton and the second about Malala Yousafzai. It’s actually because of Becoming Bonnie that I was considered for this series, which was a dream project between my agent and an editor at Scholastic. When they were trying to think of an author who could tackle the project, my name came up because of Bonnie’s biographical (yet fictional) story. I jumped at the chance to depict these strong female characters.

Are you currently working on anything that you can share?

Yes! Though Becoming Bonnie is a complete story, I’m excited to be working on follow-up, Being Bonnie, which picks up where Becoming Bonnie leaves off, focusing heavily on Bonnie and Clyde’s crime spree.

What advice can you give to someone who wants to become a writer?

Read, a lot! Other historical fiction novelists often inspire me.

About Becoming Bonnie:

From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh comes the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo.

he summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family's poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas's newest speakeasy, Doc's.

Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, and embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—Bonnie tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. What she doesn't know is that her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

She’s about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Few details are known about Bonnie's life prior to meeting her infamous partner. In Becoming Bonnie, Jenni L. Walsh shows a young woman promised the American dream and given the Great Depression, and offers a compelling account of why she fell so hard for a convicted felon—and turned to crime herself.

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About the Author

Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. Becoming Bonnie is her first novel.

Please learn more about Jenni and her books at jennilwalsh.com.

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