A Complex Cover for a Complex Book + An Excerpt from BECOMING BONNIE

This week’s Deb Ball topic is book titles and covers!

Like many authors, getting my cover for BECOMING BONNIE was a moment I eagerly awaited. But, unlike a lot of authors, I didn’t have a strong visual of what I wanted. This is weird for me; I’m a really visual person. But, nope, my imagination kept coming up empty. I think, in part, my blank slate of expectations was because the cover had to capture so many different elements: Bonnie and Clyde (obviously), the flapper/speakeasy atmosphere of the 1920s that crashes with the stock market, a hint of danger but also Bonnelyn’s initial innocence, and of course, appeal for the historical women’s fiction reader.

And my mind couldn’t figure out how to visually piece that all together. Fortunately, my cover designer knew just what to do, and I love what he created. My editor, Bess Cozby, also had the following to say, and I couldn’t agree more: “I can see Bonnie stepping up to the mic the first time she sings at Doc’s.”

Doc’s, in my story, is a speakeasy. And, to give you the inside scoop as to what Bess meant, here’s a quick glimpse of that scene:

Tbonniebookhere’s a lull in the music, and I look at the stage, all the while twisting a dishrag, ’cause I can’t stop thinkin’, I wish it were me up there.

And then I’m opening my arms and throwing down the rag. I leave the bar. My eyes are trained to the left of Rosie, on a vacant microphone.

The dance floor may as well be the Red Sea, with how people separate to form a path. Rosie smiles, her black dress shimmering in the light. I wonder if she’s seen the way I’ve longingly set my eyes on the stage, watching her sing. I wonder if she knew it was only a matter of time before I found myself under the lights. Rosie gestures, extending a hand to the microphone beside her. She lowers it to my level, as if sayin’, Join me.

A high-pitch piano note begins the song, and my step falters. I twist, trying to see Blanche, but hands are on my back, my shoulders, pushing me forward again. I swear I hear someone say, “Sing, Saint Bonnelyn.”

I refocus on the stage, fingering the pearls around my neck. The way the spotlight lands on Rosie, it’s like little pieces of confetti dance behind her. She taps a tambourine against her leg, in perfect harmony with the piano’s melody—a cluster of twinkling stars that fall one at a time before tumbling all at once.

Rosie motions again, more urgently this time, giving me the encouragement I need to step onto the stage. The trumpet’s sudden deep notes fill the room, making it feel as if that moment was made for me, welcoming me.

Did you get a sense of the cover? I sure hope so!


Author: Jenni L. Walsh

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.