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This blog was featured on 03/07/2019
Tomi Adeyemi on Writing Fantasy, Her Process and Pushing Her Pub Date
Written by
She Writes
March 2019
Written by
She Writes
March 2019

Tomi Adeyemi is a creative writing coach and author of the YA novel Children of Blood and Bone that exploded onto the scene with big sales, big acclaim, and a movie deal. A scholar of English Literature and West African mythology, Tomi’s website, filled with free video training and advice galore, has been named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 best for writers.

Now, the second book in Adeyemi’s Legacy of Orïsha fantasy trilogy, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, based on West African mythology and inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, is in the works, set to hit stores in December 3rd, although it was originally slated for March. The book is available for pre-order now.

Adeyemi took to Twitter to share the news about pushing back her pub date. Watch now >

"I think about my readers with every word I write, and I'm so excited to keep working hard and give them another adventure with Children of Virtue and Vengeance," Adeyemi told InStyle, mentioning that she is most looking forward to "the ability to expand my world."

She added, "I can't wait for people to meet the new characters, experience the new magic, and dive deeper into the enchanting world of Orïsha. I've had so much fun writing this story, so I can't wait to share it with everyone else!"

On Adapting West African Culture & Mythology into Fantasy

For the first two books in the trilogy, Adeyemi used her Nigerian heritage as the foundation for her story’s fantasy setting.

“The biggest challenge was weaving the reality and the fantasy together in a way that still honors the yoruba tradition and the various religions in a way that celebrates the orisha,” she said. “However, it was also one of the most rewarding aspects because I also got to weave the reality of my Nigerian heritage into the world and make it the foundation that the story rests on. The kingdom is obviously named after the keisha, but seas and mountain ranges are named after my late grandparents. The characters wear dashikis, geles, and headdresses as they eat jollof rice and fried plantain. That was really gratifying for me because I got to make magic out of the wonderful culture I was born into.”

This excerpt was originally published by the Young Adult Library Services Association. Read the full interview here.

On Inspiration

Adeyemi drew inspiration from the real-life challenges of black people – now and in the past. In doing so, she has found a unique balance between the fantasy world she’s created and relevancy in modern culture.

“One very important inspiration was the real-life problems that black people are facing all around the world. Every obstacle my characters face throughout the story – big or small – is tied to a real obstacle that black people are facing today, or have faced within the past 30 to 50 years. I wanted to write a compelling adventure that sucks readers in, but I also wanted to connect everything to the real world because while the book is fantasy, the pain inside it is real. I think the world can move forward in a significant way if people learn to understand and empathize with that pain and those struggles.”

This excerpt was originally published by the Young Adult Library Services Association. Read the full interview here.

On Her Publishing Process

Thinking back on her publishing process, Adeyemi reflects on some of the greatest lessons she experienced.

“Nothing is wasted,” she said. “You can make something out of every unfinished story and every rejection if you work at it. You’re never wasting your time as long as you learn from every single thing you do, whether you feel like those attempts are successful or not.”

“You need a community to succeed. In the back of every book is an acknowledgments page full of all the people it took to get that writer to the book you’re holding. With the internet, there are so many ways to connect with other writers who will be some of your best friends and best sources of support for your entire life. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and go meet them!”

This excerpt was originally published on Writer’s Digest. Read the full interview here.

There were a few specific things that Adeyemi credits for helping her break into the publishing world, specifically participating in Pitch Wars, listening to feedback, and finding the right agent.

I think the most important thing I did right was move from my first book to my second book when I did. I talked about my fast timeline above, but I had about 75 days to outline, write, and revise a 95,000 word fantasy so that I could enter Pitch Wars, which then changed my life and writing career forever.”

“I queried about 60 agents over 4 months with my first book, and got 15 full requests. Everyone rejected the book, but 10-ish of those full requests gave me great feedback along the lines of ‘You’re a good writer, you have something special, but I couldn’t sell this book in the current marketplace.’”

“By the time I heard that from enough agents that I respected, I knew my first book wasn’t going to do it for me, so I pivoted to my second and started making plans. Had I queried 300+ agents just waiting for one person to say yes and take a chance on me, I never would’ve been able to write and revise my breakout book in time. I also wouldn’t have found the agents who were right for me.”

This excerpt was originally published on Writer’s Digest. Read the full interview here.

On YA vs. Adult Fiction

In a recent interview, Tomi was asked if she thinks YA is more progressive than mainstream adult fiction. Here’s what she had to say.

“In publishing, it’s the same faces and people of the same backgrounds who are making the decisions. No book has been #1 [on The New York Times’s YA bestseller list] as long as The Hate U Give. There is so much concrete proof that not only is work by people of color important, but it’s marketable. The only thing more American to me than racism is capitalism. But even though there’s a clear financial incentive to do the right thing, people of color are still being told, ‘Oh, we already have our black book.’”

“But we do have a more progressive reading audience: young people care. I’m a cynical person, but I get to meet all of these incredible young people and I see their passion and empathy, and their genuine desire to do good. I wish I could show people what I see because if you don’t see it then it just seems like we’re heading somewhere bad. But when you see these kids and how amped they are to get in the world and make their mark, it feels like we’re gonna be fine.”

This excerpt was originally published on The Fader. Read the full interview here.

On Creative Writing & Guiding Others

“I started a writing blog my senior year of college because someone told me it would help me get published (I didn’t know at the time that they were talking about non-fiction publishing)! But as I continued doing posts, I found that synthesizing what I learned about writing was not only helpful to me, but it was extremely rewarding to see how it helped others. Over the past few years I’ve continued to grow on my website, and while writing CBB and CVV has made it harder, I still enjoy helping others find and create their stories. It’s the best feeling in the world to meet my students at signings or get messages from them and learn how my classes have helped them finish their first book or get an agent or even get a publishing deal!”

This excerpt was originally published by the Young Adult Library Services Association. Read the full interview here.

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