Bonnie Parker: From Doll to Gangster’s Moll

This week the Debs are talking about their character names, which is a fun topic, in general, but even with a book based on real-life figures, I had a great time with naming my characters.

BECOMING BONNIE is the untold story of how Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s.

My novel’s been referred to as a “female Breaking Bad,” and I’m down with that. In real life and my novel, Bonnie Parker was born in 1910 into a good family. Only, her father died when she was young, sending Bonnie’s family in a new trajectory toward poverty. Even still, Bonnie wanted to make something of herself. She was a straight A student. Bonnie performed in talent shows and pageants. She sang in the church choir. It was this background that molded the storyline to answer the question, “how did she end up with a known convict like Clyde Barrow?”

You’ll notice the description above says Bonnelyn Parker opposed to Bonnie Parker, when, of course, the leading lady of my novel’s real name is Bonnie Elizabeth Parker. But as a coming-of-age, origin story, I wanted to show how my main character transitioned in numerous ways, including her name. I thought to myself, let’s begin the novel with a wholesome sounding name and let her become the Bonnie history knows.

After deciding to use a new name at the novel’s onset, I had to find the perfect one. Two options rose to the top: Bonnebelle and Bonnelyn, but of the two I thought Bonnelyn had the more wholesome sound to it. Either would’ve worked, however, to set up the following (quick) excerpt — because, of course, Clyde’s the one who ultimately transitions Bonnelyn to Bonnie. Here, Clyde’s makes the connection between Bonnie and Bonny, which means beautiful:

“Bonnelyn,” he repeats. “Well, that name ain’t pretty enough for the likes of you. I reckon Bonnie suits you better.” He nods, seeming satisfied. Then Clyde bends, smiling up at me as he presses his chilled lips to my hand. “Hi, Bonnie.”

If you’d like to learn more about novel, or see how I answered the question of, “How do you feel about the fact that as BECOMING BONNIE enjoys wide success, readers are going to start adding that creation of yours into the myth of Bonnie and Clyde?” feel free to click through to a recent podcast I did with the History Author Show 🙂

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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 (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.