JENNI L. WALSH INTERVIEWS BONNIE PARKER FROM BECOMING BONNIE
Many hear the name Bonnie Parker and think: American outlaw, bank robber, or of her counterpart, Clyde Barrow. But, today, I’d like to take a few steps back and chat with Bonnelyn Parker, the wholesome, bright-eyed girl at the onset of my forthcoming novel, Becoming Bonnie.
JLW: It’s great to meet you, Bonnelyn. Want to quickly introduce yourself?
BP: *sits up straighter* Sure. Well, I’m seventeen, born on October 1, 1910 in Rowena, Texas. But, after my daddy died, my ma, older brother, little sister, and I moved to Cement City, Texas.
JLW: Ah, so you’re the middle child? We’re going to come back to that. But first, what’s Cement City like?
BP: It ain’t much, I can tell ya that. Got its name because of a big ol’ cement plant along the river where my brother works. Besides that, we’ve got a physician’s office, general store, and telephone connections building. Though that last one doesn’t do my family a lick of good since we can’t afford a telephone. But that’s it. That’s Cement City. We don’t even have a school. We cross the tracks into Dallas for that.
JLW: So you’re saying you’d rather live somewhere besides Cement City?
BP: *laughs* It has its favorable qualities, too. My li’l town is a pocket of good. I’ll be honest I haven’t put any real thought into living elsewhere. This is where my family is.
JLW: Your family is a big deal to you. Do you think they’ve influenced who you are today?
BP: For sure. Buster, my brother, is a bit of a wild child. My sister, Little Billie, is as sweet as pie. I keep ‘em both in line since our ma has to work so much at a factory in Dallas. With it being summer, and since school let out, I work in Dallas too, at a diner—though Mr. Banks keeps cutting my hours because we’ve been slow.
JLW: You have a lot on your plate. Any room for boys?
BP: There’s Roy. But there’s always been Roy. We’ve been together since we’ve been knee-high to a grasshopper.
JLW: Do you think you’ll marry him?
BP: Stop. I was only checking. Maybe one day. We’re only seventeen, and this here is the 1920s. Women can vote; women are equals, wanting to make a name for themselves. I’m no exception. There are things I want to accomplish before becoming Mrs. Roy Thornton.
JLW: Like what?
BP: Stupid li’l stuff. Standing at the front of my very own classroom. At a bank counter, depositing my payroll checks. Shaking hands with a salesman, purchasing my first car. I want Bonnelyn Parker to be somebody. Then, my daddy will look down on me and smile, knowing I ain’t struggling, I’m thriving. I’m more than poor.
JLW: I’m sorry about your father. Were you young when he passed?
BP: Yeah, I wasn’t even double-digits yet when the Great War took him. He was a good man. In fact, my ma always jokes, proclaiming him a good Christian man after he got the rest out of his system. The gentlest man who’s ever gone and held a shotgun.
JLW: It’s obvious he’s very important to you. Who else is? Besides Roy and your family?
BP: Well, there’s Blanche. Though we couldn’t be any more different. She’s impulsive and loud. A horrible student. Jumps from boy to boy like they’re going out of style. But she’s my best friend. Really, she’s more like a sister. Roy hates her. When we were seven, she convinced me to pocket Communion money so we could buy candy. Ever since, he’s convinced she’s going to corrupt me at every turn. Probably ‘cause she does try. Hasn’t though. I’ve got a good head on my shoulders. Pull straight As. And, every Sunday, I sit in front of a piano at church, press my fingers into the keys, and let the Lord’s words roll off my tongue.
JLW: So you like music?
BP: Oh yes. To me, singing is the purest form of feeling free. My daddy said it’s ’cause those words, those melodies, come from deep within.
JLW: Do you ever sing in front of people?
BP: *shrugs* In the choir. A talent show at school. Nowhere fancy. Blanche is the one with the courage to really put herself out there. Not me.
JLW: How would you describe yourself?
BP: Well that question ain’t fair. I feel weird talking ‘bout myself that way.
JLW: Okay. I’d say you’re smart, based on your grades. Who’s your favorite author?
BP: William Butler Yeats. I’ve read many of his poems. Though he has this one line: But I, being poor, have only my dreams. I use it to encourage myself. Almost like I’m going to prove that line wrong. I’ll have money and dreams.
JLW: I don’t doubt it. You are the middle child, after all. I once read that middle children tend to be successful. Also, they’re very faithful to their partners. And, they’re often attracted to other middle kids. Is Roy a middle child?
BP: No, he’s an only child.
JLW: Oh, ignore that last part, then. I think I already know the answer to this last question, but what is your most treasured possession?
BP: My dreams.
JLW: It’s been a pleasure to get to know you better, Bonnelyn. I can’t wait to see where your future takes you.
Jenni L. Walsh is the author of Becoming Bonnie, a novel forthcoming from Tor/Forge (Macmillan) on May 9, 2017 that tells the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. Please learn more about Jenni and her books at jennilwalsh.com.
Barnes & Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/becoming-bonnie-jenni-walsh/1124483106
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