Review of Becoming Bonnie & Interview with Jenni L. Walsh

Happy Tuesday, dear readers! Today on the blog is an exciting day! I have a review of Becoming Bonnie and an interview with Author Jenni L. Walsh! Becoming Bonnie is out today in paperback, so be sure to grab a copy. It's exceptional!

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

Paperback Release Date: May 22, 2018
Forge Books
Paperback & eBook; 320 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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

The 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, he embraces it--perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling--she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life--like her country--is headed for a crash.

Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

My Review

5 Stars.

I was a little late to the Becoming Bonnie love fest. After seeing my social media feeds filled with rave reviews I knew I had to pick it up. And I am so happy that I did!

I've long been fascinated with Bonnie and Clyde. Two young people in love and united against the world and societal norms. I always wondered what made them turn to a life of crime and thankfully, Becoming Bonnie came along and author Jenni L. Walsh gifts us with their back story.

I can't say enough good things about Becoming Bonnie! It was such a fun and fascinating read. I loved how Walsh incorporated the slang from the 1920s. You can tell that she did her research and that she had a lot of fun writing the book. And I sure had a lot of fun reading it!

If you're looking for a fascinating, suck-you-in-and-won't-let-you-go story, Becoming Bonnie is it! I will be reading the companion novel, SIDE BY SIDE (releases on June 5th from Forge Books), soon and I cannot wait to be back with Bonnie and Clyde!

Becoming Bonnie is the cat's pajamas đŸ˜»

Hello Jenni and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Becoming Bonnie!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and Becoming Bonnie.

While I admittedly spent my youth disinterested in history, it’s a topic I now actively seek out. As my husband is a history buff, he’s had a hand in that. We enjoy talking, watching, reading about past events and people together. Once, Bonnie and Clyde came up in our discussions. My barometer for who they were was based on the 1967 film, which I hadn’t seen in years and years – and which turned out to be unbeknownst to me rather inaccurate. After realizing that the duo had been depicted in film and nonfiction, but never in a novel, I saw the opportunity to tell their story. From there, I chose to tell it through Bonnie’s eyes as women’s fiction. Becoming Bonnie brings to life her adolescent years prior to and during her meeting of Clyde Barrow, showing how she transformed from a doll to gangster’s moll.

What type of research did you do for Becoming Bonnie?

I would’ve loved to travel the heart of America like Bonnie and Clyde had or visited Dallas where they lived and are now buried, however, it wasn’t in the cards. That’s to say, I still had a plethora of information and first-hand accounts to pull from, be it from diaries, memoirs, nonfiction books, newspaper articles, testimonials, court documents, FBI documents, photographs, poems, artifacts, documentaries, experts, and historians. Still, with all of this information, there were limited details about Bonnie’s life prior to Clyde. I took what information I could find and then filled in the rest to align with my time period of the 1920s, which included things like speakeasies, dance marathons, and the stock market crash. For Side by Side, which is releasing June 5th as the follow up to Becoming Bonnie and dives head first into Bonnie and Clyde’s infamous crime spree, I was able to heavily implement my research to accurately depict their movements and shenanigans.

Did you find anything in your research that surprised you or that you found particularly fascinating?

Who Bonnie and Clyde were as human beings surprised me. Part of my original interest and motivation was understanding who they were and what made them tick. Portrayals of the duo often describe them as ruthless and driven by fame. And while there is no condoning their actions or crimes, I wasn’t expecting to learn that the duo was fiercely devoted to their families and that they possessed a bit of a moral compass. Many believe that when Clyde fired a gun it wasn’t premeditated, but reactionary (granted, it was in reaction to him stealing or committing a crime and someone trying to stop him). Also, it’s commonly believed that Bonnie never killed a soul. Bonnie and Clyde wanted more for themselves than a life of crime, and that’s an element I honed in on in Becoming Bonnie and Side by Side.

What was your favorite scene to write?

In Becoming Bonnie, I decided to play with history and begin the story with Bonnie as “Bonnelyn,” a wholesome, churching-going, choir-singing young woman. Even before I wrote a single word, the scene was running through my head where Clyde’s the one to begin referring to her as Bonnie. I really enjoyed writing that scene.

What was the hardest scene to write?

Ah, the ending. Of each book. Becoming Bonnie and Side by Side can be read independently of each other or one after the other. But, of course, I hope you read both! We all know how the story of Bonnie and Clyde ends. Despite all their wrong doings, I wanted to give them a happy ending at both conclusions. Let’s just say, those happy endings are a bit complicated.

Your second book, Side by Side, also featuring Bonnie and Clyde will be out on June 5th. What is in store next for the duo?

Side by Side is their twenty-seven month crime spree story! If you think you know their story from the 1967 film, then I think you’re in for a few surprises. The film was expertly done, but couldn’t go into the depth of a novel. There was a lot left out from the film that I was able to bring to life in my books.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always been a writer in one form or another. As a child I wrote poems and short stories. Then after college, I became a copywriter at an advertising agency. I felt the pull to be a novelist about eight years ago and threw myself into the craft, resulting in a few manuscripts that’ll never see the light of day, haha. Becoming Bonnie is my first published novel and I’m so proud of Bonn’s stories.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

Honestly, it’s finding new readers, which is why I’m so thankful for you, Amy! There are so many wonderful books to choose from and I’m so humbled when someone decides to pick up mine.

Who are your writing inspirations?

There are a few historical ladies who are an insta-buy for me. I’m looking at you, Greer Macallister, Ariel Lawhon, and Fiona Davis.

What was the first historical novel you read?

Oh man, I got to go into the vault for this one. I would think it was maybe the Little House on the Prairie books? While I wasn’t a big “history buff” as a child, I’ve always been a huge reader and always enjoyed being transported to different worlds and settings.

What is the last historical novel you read?

I’ve always been intrigued by the Romanov conspiracy, so I was so excited to get my hands on an early copy of The Romanov Empress, releasing in July. The book was everything I had hoped it to be, telling the Romanov’s epic saga through the eyes of Empress Marie, who was the last tsar’s mother.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

This is such a cliché answer but I simply like to revisit the past and be transported to that time and place.

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

I tend to pick up books based on real-life people or events, no matter the era.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

I have a two-year-old and four-year-old. Need I say more?

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m not at liberty to say too much, but I’ll hopefully be taking readers to the California gold rush!

HA! As a mother of a four-year-old and five-year-old, I can totally relate to that answer! I cannot wait to hear more about your future project and I am so excited to read SIDE BY SIDE!

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