Tomi Adeyemi is the author of the upcoming Children of Blood and Bone, a west-African inspired fantasy novel. The first book in a trilogy, Children of Blood and Bone has already been met with considerable excitement before its publication date, including being optioned for film by Fox 2000. We sat down with Tomi at YALLFest in Charleston, SC to talk about Children of Blood and Bone, the publishing process, the stunning cover, and more:
Congratulations on your debut novel! What has the publishing process been like for you?
Thank you! It’s been a whirlwind in every way, especially because at the very basis it’s been a lifelong dream to publish a book, and to have it be with a story that’s so personal – like if I could rip out my heart and put it in Microsoft Word, that’s this book – so to have it happen with something that isn’t just another story I wrote but with something that is so personal is one thing. And to have found a home at Macmillan and to see them so passionate and making beautiful covers and posters, that’s a crazy dream.
All of it is so much to process and it hits me on planes and stuff because I’ll be like Oh my god because I can’t really process it. I had to go through it without processing it; especially with the book itself, we dove right into revisions because we’re publishing this at an accelerated rate which means the deal happened and a week later I was editing. The book was around 400 pages when we sold it and it’s at 600 now. My editor and I laugh because it feels like we’ve known each other our entire lives because we’ve spent so many hours together on the phone and email.
It’s been a wonderful whirlwind, but there’s a lot of work behind it. I think people think there’s a lot of [glamour] because they’ll see I went to this thing or that event, but most of this is hair in a bun, Proactiv on the face, yelling at my computer.
How would you describe Children of Blood and Bone in five words?
I have two different ones. I describe it as ‘African the Last Airbender’ because if you’re as obsessed with that story as I am then you’ll be very happy. It’s that type of immersive fantasy where you’re in this epic world with amazing magic and animals. I love Avatar so I wanted to do something like that.
The other is ‘Black Girl Magic.’
When you wrote Children of Blood and Bone, did you plot it out or write by the seat of your pants?
I used to never plot out a story; I’d just go, which is probably why I’m so good at thinking of the beginnings of stories. I always know where a story starts but then I could never finish it. When I discovered that I did want to publish a book, I discovered I had to become a plotter. I have to figure out where it’s going in a check-box way and then I can pants my way through that. I don’t need a scene-by-scene breakdown but I do need to know what happens in which section. I give myself a playground to play in, as opposed to an ocean.
What’s your process and favorite part of world building?
My favorite part is the inspiration phase because in the beginning you don’t need to get it right. You can wonder What if they rode giant lions? What if they went to this temple? So my world building is just really my going crazy on Pinterest and getting everything I would like to see because if I would like to see it then I would like to write about it and have readers picture it. It’s really just gathering all that inspiration, like with the Orisha – we call them gods and goddesses – even with the beautiful images of that because I’d never seen black people depicted in such a sacred light.
It’s fun to build a world in the beginning and very messy, and then in revisions afterwards everything has to make sense. I try to have as much fun in the beginning and not put any barriers because it can be anything and then once you have your world and your story, you can refine both to make the most sense.
Did you have any say in the design of the cover? Can you talk about it?
I was lucky because this was something they wanted to do together. My editor and I started a thread and we wanted the same things and it was great. We had even pinned the same image so that’s when I knew it was gonna work out. And then I found out that Rich Deas was doing it and I love his covers – he did the Shadow and Bone trilogy, the Six of Crows duology, the Lunar Chronicles, Renegades – so I knew he was brilliant. I knew we all wanted the same things, we have a brilliant cover designer on it, and then *mind-blown motion*
He just did it. It was way beyond my wildest imagination of what the cover could be.
If you could have lunch with any of the characters from Children of Blood and Bone, who would you choose and why?
Roën. That’s all I’m gonna say. When you meet him, you’ll know why. Oh my gosh, I would love to have lunch with Roën.
About the book:
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.
About the author:
Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, California. After graduating Harvard University with an honors degree in English literature, she received a fellowship that allowed her to study West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil. When she’s not working on her novels or watching Scandal, she can be found blogging and teaching creative writing to her 4,500 subscribers at tomiadeyemi.com.
Tomi will be touring in March for the release of Children of Blood and Bone – find her tour dates here.
Children of Blood and Bone is available for pre-order now and will hit shelves on March 6, 2018!