Stephanie Oakes is a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is the powerful story of a teenager without hands, who has spent years of her life in a strict cult. She recounts her horrific life as a cult member as she’s behind bars; including the events that led up to the night a fire destroyed the cult’s encampment and resulted in the Prophet’s death.
I was completely surprised! I knew what an incredible year for debuts it had been, and I thought there was no way my book would be in the running. It was such a great feeling to get that call!
There have been several recent YA books that contain elements of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s fairytale Girl Without Hands. I read that author Rosamund Hodge spoke to you about it when she was writing her book Crimson Bound. Why did you decide to write a retelling of that particular tale?
Yes, Rosamund and I chatted about research while she was working on Crimson Bound—that was a fun connection to make. I just loved the story of the fairy tale so much. It was incredibly rich, while at the same time, there were great swathes of the original story that were pretty blank, so there was room to play around with characters, their motivations, and the setting.
It has a rather timeless feel to it yet I believe it’s supposed to be somewhat contemporary. What time period or year is it set in?
It’s set in modern times. I’m a huge fan of fairy tale retellings, but I hadn’t ever read a retelling in a modern setting, so I wanted to give that a try.
The book’s first words are chilling, “I am a blood –soaked girl.” By starting it with Minnow’s brutal act of violence, it really draws the reader in. Was that always the way you’d intended for readers to be introduced to Minnow?
This book underwent so many revisions and rewrites that the beginning changed more times than I can remember. When I first wrote that line, I think it showed up around the third or fourth chapter, but gradually I realized that opening Minnow’s story on that scene was a real hook, so I shuffled it to the front.