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>> Groundbreaking fantasy from Tomi Adeyemi

Groundbreaking fantasy from Tomi Adeyemi

Groundbreaking fantasy from Tomi Adeyemi

Fans of CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE were thrilled to see author TOMI ADEYEMI at this year's YALC conference in London. We caught up with her to ask about her groundbreaking fantasy novel, which is also being made into a blockbuster film!

CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE - published by Macmillan in March - is set in a world loosely based on Nigeria, where magic exists but is suppressed almost to extinction.

Teenager Zelie, a maji with magical abilities, finds herself at the centre of a battle between the magi - whose magical heritage is being denied - and the elite who are trying to destroy all magic in Orisha. This is a battle for the soul of Orisha that will shape its future - and Zelie has a far greater role to play in it than she ever imagined.

This is a ground-breaking fantasy novel with a diverse cast and a sweeping African setting. We asked author TOMI ADEYEMI to tell us more about CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE:

Q: Children of Blood and Bone (CBB) is an ambitious first novel, why did you decide to write your novel and how long did it take to write?

A: I decided to write this book because I wanted to be a writer, and to be a writer you need to write! After seeing a magical picture of the orisha and another magical picture of a black girl with green hair, the story of CBB was exploding out of me.

Q: What is your background in creative writing and do you do other work?

A: My background is writing my whole life and trying to publish one book (unsuccessfully) before Children of Blood and Bone. It took 18 very crazy months to produce Children of Blood and Bone. I have worked other jobs, but right now I write full time!

Q: You have mentioned that the book was written to the background of police shootings of unarmed black men and children in the US. What did you want to achieve in writing this book?

A: I wanted to say something about the racism, injustice, and police brutality that I saw in the world around me. While my book is set in a fantasy world, I chose to tie the obstacles the characters face to things real people of color have faced or are facing today.

When people tell me Zelie's fear hits home for them or a certain scene really gets them in the gut, I know I've achieved what I set out to do. I want everyone to enjoy this adventure, but I also want them to learn from it.

Q: Do you feel Children of Blood and Bone - a fantasy novel with a diverse cast - is breaking the mould, like Malorie Blackman did with Noughts and Crosses?

A: I think it is. Telling a diverse story was so important to me because I didn't get to see a prominent person of color in a book until I was in college.

The young adults today are the people who are growing up and who are going to make the world a better place, but in order to take part in that they have to feel welcome and represented, so we have to tell their stories where they can see themselves and I'm honoured for the role Children of Blood and Bone gets to play in that.

Q: The novel also provides a brutally honest exploration of discrimination and misuse of power as an everyday issue. Why did you want to make this such a dominant thread in your novel?

A: I wanted to tell a compelling, nuanced story that was reflective of our world. Typically, there isn't absolute good or evil in the world. There are multiple sides, multiple beliefs, and multiple paths people are willing to take to get what they want.

I find the antagonists and conflicts I love most as a consumer reflect that. Those characters aren't bad to be bad - they believe they're doing the right thing, and if the creator has done a really good job, we agree with the villains in the story as much as we agree with the hero.

I wanted that reflected in the book. No one is simple wrong or right - they're all trying to do what's best for their people and their kingdom, but they're letting negative emotions like fear, anger, and revenge guide them, and that's where they go wrong.

Q: In Children of Blood and Bone you explore Orisha's creation myths, their gods and magic. Are these stories you grew up with, or did you need to research them for the novel?

A: My Nigerian heritage acted as the foundation for the world of CBB, so it was kind of like taking a blank page and using my culture to draw the map. I created lines out of the geles and dashikis that we wear and the moin moin pies and fried plantain that we eat. I got to name characters, cities, mountains, and oceans after all the different members of my family.

My favorite part was creating magic spells out of Yoruba, the dialect my parents grew up speaking. I even shaped the kingdom of Orisha after the continent of Africa, so I literally drew a map from my heritage.

Q: The gods of Orisha cover different aspects of life (and death). If you were a maji in Orisha, which would be your god? And what would you want your abilities to be?

A: I would definitely be a Reaper like Zelie, so I would belong to the Reaper clan whose god is Oya! Everyone can find out what clan they'd be in by going to!

Q: Your main characters - Zelie, Amari, Tzain and Inan - go through extraordinary learning curves while confronting the abuses of power in their world. How hard was it to pace these changes while also keeping the pace of the adventure?

A: Everything is difficult, but I find I can do it successfully if I focus on one thing at a time. So first I focus on my plot, then I focus on individual character arcs and revise my plot / worldbuilding as necessary to support them!

Q: The first book ends on a cliffhanger - can you give us a glimpse into book two in terms of what you aim to explore and what we can expect of the characters?

A: No spoilers! But my goal is to give you everything you loved about CBB but with a new, gripping adventure!

Q: Film rights have been sold to the series - are you involved in the film's development?

A: I am involved in the movie! The team at Fox 2000 and Temple Hill Productions have been incredible to work with. I'm so grateful to them for keeping me so involved in the process!

Q: How are you enjoying being a published author?

A: I love it! The response to the book has been amazing, I love getting to travel and meet all the fans. But my greatest accomplishment as a published author has been the ability to make little black girls around the world feel like the beautiful maji and princesses that they are.

Q: Can you give a couple of top tips for young writers for creating believable fantasy worlds?

A: Don't give up, and know that nothing is wasted. Also read, read, read and write, write, write!

Q: Where is your favourite place to write and what do you enjoy doing the most when you're not writing?

A: I write a lot at my desk at home, or at the hotel desk if I am on the road. I love to box and watch BTS music videos!

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