Tuesday 31st July 2018, Waterstones ‘In Conversation with Tomi Adeyemi’
It was after devouring her debut novel ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ when I discovered author Tomi Adeyemi was coming to Waterstones in Liverpool. After relishing this enchanting story, I bought a ticket and I’m so happy I did. Hearing her talk about composing this book was inspirational. So inspirational that it made me want to stop everything else I was doing and bang out a 500-page novel myself.
As a brief summary, ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ is a high fantasy YA novel and from the outset, we have an action-packed, fast-paced adventure to restore magic in Orïsha before it is wiped out once and for all. Tomi Adeyemi’s prose is beautiful. She has created such a vibrant world with a unique magic system and strong, intriguing characters. If I could rate this novel more than 5 stars I would.
It is the ability to use failure that often leads to greater success.
During the talk, Adeyemi spoke about how prior to writing Children of Blood and Bone, she had spent three years working on another book. Although it was never published, she doesn’t by any means view it as a failure or a waste of time. Instead, she views it as a learning experience: something which showed her the ropes of the publishing industry, allowed her to explore her writing style, and gradually become accustomed to the writing and drafting process. Thus, she was fully equipped when she set out on composing her first draft of COBAB. She took what she’d learned, and built from it.
More than just a story
Moreover, one of the reasons I adore reading is that more often than not, we’re reading more than just a story. Books have the ability to tell compelling, enchanting stories while also maintaining a significant second layer which alludes to issues in our own society.
Adeyemi describes reading her fantasy novel as ‘eating cake with asparagus’: we’re enjoying it, but we’re simultaneously gaining something from it. Yes it’s an extraordinary fantasy world where people ride tigers instead of horses and these teenagers have magical powers, but when we look beneath the surface, it’s so much more. It’s an allegory of police brutality and the systematic oppression black individuals have experienced and still suffer in today’s society. Despite being a fantasy land, its world parallels our own. Women, men and children of colour have suffered in the hands of those in power. Thus, what we feel for the characters in this book is what we should feel for people in real life.
Those with dark skin are a threat. Yet, the protagonist, Zélie, with the darkest skin, living in poverty and dealing with the brutal murder of her mother, could be the most powerful person in Orïsha. However, she is viewed as nothing more than a racial slur. This book is powerful, eye-opening, and I hope every uncovers the second layer of this thought-provoking novel. At just 24 years of age when publishing this book, Adeyemi has opened the eyes of so many people to a pressing issue and is a breath of fresh air in YA publishing.
Meeting the author
After the talk, I was lucky enough to meet Tomi. Now, I wasn’t prepared for this at all so I anxiously waited in the queue running lines over in my head of what I could say to her. I didn’t need to worry because she was SO lovely. Upon me walking towards the table she complimented my hair before I blurted out how much I loved her book.
She then asked me if I was a writer. I stumbled upon my words – I like to write: I write blog posts, and note dribs and drabs of story ideas down in a word document whenever I have a random light bulb moment. However, am I a writer? No.
That’s when she said, you may be an aspiring author, but if you like to write, you are a writer. I attributed a writer as someone who is published and successful. However, does the fact that I’m not published stop me from being a writer? Not at all.
Additionally, there was some talk of the film adaptation. There’s no set budget so basically expect stupefying scenes and spectacles of fire. Also, Idris Elba might be making an appearance. That’s all I’m saying.
Overall, this talk was incredibly inspiring. Tomi explained how there aren’t many Nigerian writers: most become engineers or doctors. However, she didn’t let other people’s expectations stop her from setting her imagination free. She transitioned from thinking ‘if I get published’ to ‘when I get published‘, and it’s this mindset that more of us need to have. Even 100 words a day will help you reach your goals which ultimately, is far better than doing nothing at all.
PROGRESS is progress. Don’t view your unsuccess as a failure, but instead take what you’ve learned and use that to help you reach your goals. We gotta have faith.
If you haven’t picked up this book yet, DO IT! I couldn’t recommend it more.
Read more about the book over on Goodreads.
Thanks for reading!