What was most fascinating to me was that both Bonnie and Clyde, but Clyde in particular, were raised in Christian homes. Both prayed nightly, even during their time on the run. When I decided I wanted to write a story mirroring theirs, I knew this was going to be a central focus. The roots were there, so what made the plant wither? – Jennifer L. Wright
Q & A with Jennifer L. Wright,
author of the book, The Girl from the Papers
1. What about this book excited you while writing it?
Like many people, I find the story of Bonnie and Clyde fascinating, but it’s also heartbreaking. As I was reading their history, I saw so many opportunities for their lives to have gone in a different direction, had they only seized the opportunity. It was extremely satisfying as a writer to be able to create a world in which at least a few of those alternate decisions were made. I can’t change the past, but this novel gave me a chance to pretend I could.
2. This story really touches on the theme of identity. Why was that theme so central to Beatrice’s character?
I think the question of “Who am I?” is universal to all humanity; it crosses all countries, religions, colors, and creeds. Along with that, the question of where we find our identity looms even larger. Does it come from our parents, our birthplace, our economic status, our physical appearance, our job? Every single one of these things has the ability to define us on a basic level, but never at our most authentic. I think Beatrice’s wrestling with this truth will resonate with many readers who have discovered the same thing in their own journeys.
3. What drew you to the history of Bonnie and Clyde? What research went into this book?
Naturally, I’d heard about Bonnie and Clyde many years ago, but I first dove deeper into their story during my time period research for If It Rains. What was most fascinating to me was that both Bonnie and Clyde, but Clyde in particular, were raised in Christian homes. Both prayed nightly, even during their time on the run. When I decided I wanted to write a story mirroring theirs, I knew this was going to be a central focus. The roots were there, so what made the plant wither? I read everything I could get my hands on that would tell me more about Bonnie and Clyde as people, rather than just their crimes. Go Down Together by Jeff Guinn and My Life with Bonnie and Clyde by Blanche Caldwell Barrow (Clyde’s sister-in-law) both heavily influenced the manuscript.
4. How does your own faith inform this story?
Like many, I’ve gone through my own struggles with identity, especially when something I thought “defined” me was suddenly no longer a part of my life. And although I’ve never robbed a bank, I certainly have regrets and things I wish I could change about my past. With all of these issues—and many more—it always comes back to Jesus. As my Maker, He is the only one who can ever truly define me. As my Savior, He is the only one who can take away the shame of the past. I don’t believe you can have a story about authentic change without it whispering the name of Jesus on every page.
5. What do you hope readers take away from Beatrice and Jack’s story?
At the heart of this story is tragedy, not only of its outcome, but of its roots: the lie that any relationship, possession, or status can ever achieve more than the death of a humble carpenter on a cross thousands of years ago. I hope readers take away the knowledge of just how much Jesus loves each and every one of them. It is a love no one can earn, but also one nobody can outsin. If you find yourself walking along a path in which the only view of Jesus is over your shoulder, it’s not too late to turn around. You will find everything you ever needed in His presence.
Featured image photo credit: Luca Onniboni
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The Girl from the Papers by Jennifer L. Wright
Inspired by one of America’s most notorious couples, Bonnie and Clyde, Jennifer L. Wright delivers a riveting tale set during the public enemy era of the Great Depression.
Beatrice Carraway has dreams. Although she’s aged out of the childhood pageant circuit, she’s intent on carrying her talents all the way to the big screen—if only she can escape the poverty of West Dallas first. But as the Great Depression drags the working class further and further under, Beatrice struggles just to keep herself, her mother, and her younger sister afloat. After a string of failed auditions, she feels defeated.
And then in walks Jack Turner. Though Beatrice is determined to pull herself up by her bootstraps, Jack has decided on a different path out of the gutters. It isn’t long before Beatrice is swept into an exciting and glamorous life of crime beside the man she loves. Keeping one step ahead of the law, she sees her dreams of fame come true when her name and picture are plastered in newspapers across the country. Yet as their infamy grows, the distance between them widens. While Jack begins seeking bigger payouts and publicity, Beatrice starts to long for a safe, quiet life and something deeper to fill the emptiness in her soul. But when the danger of Jack’s schemes ratchets up, Beatrice fears her dreams—and her future—will end up going down in a hail of bullets.
Other historical fiction novels by this author include: If It Rains and Come Down Somewhere.
About the Author
Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, one grumpy old dachshund, and her newest obsession—a guinea pig named Peanut Butter Cup.