Having created the first youth fantasy novel based on African mythology, the 26-year-old Tomi Adeyemi not only gained popularity, but also raised the discussion of pressing issues to a new level. L'Officiel-Ukraine exclusively told about the writing of the novel, its future adaptation and its first trip to Fashion Week.
Tommy Adejemi became a real celebrity in the spring of 2018, when her novel “Children of Bones and Blood” was on the list of The New York Times bestsellers in the Young Adult category for 90 weeks. Growing up on Harry Potter books, Tomie decided to create her own universe with characters similar to herself, her family and friends, and populated her with dark-skinned heroes who, like teenagers around the world, grow up, fall in love and protest against injustice.
The main character of the book is young Zeyli, trying to return to the inhabitants of her once happy country Orisha lost her ability to magic and past prosperity. Drawing on the mythology of the West African Yoruba people, the writer presented readers with an exciting story with adventures, magic and first love. At the same time, ancient legends and legends have largely become the basis for discussing human rights, racism, and the continuity of generations.
Tomi Adeyemi herself was born in the United States, but her parents had to leave their native Nigeria in the 90s because of the civil war. The girl graduated with honors from Harvard, then she studied West African culture in Brazil on a scholarship, and used her knowledge to create the novel Children of Bones and Blood. Readers of the Goodreads platform called it the best debut of the year, and Forbes put the writer on the list of the most successful people under 30.
Last year, Tomi Adejemi released a sequel to the story entitled Children of Virtue and Vengeance, which will be released this summer in Ukrainian by Knigolav Publishing House. Now she is working on the final part of the trilogy and conducts an author's course in writing.
Tomi, tell me, did the quarantine and its limitations somehow affect your daily life and work?
To be honest, quarantine made me think twice. He prompted me to sit quietly and clarify what I want from life and how I want to live it. This aroused in me the desire to take the maximum from each day that is given to us on this earth. I feel that I really found myself at this time, and I am determined to use this knowledge to guide me for the rest of my life.
You started writing as a child, but when did you realize that literature should become a thing of your life?
I think I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, but I was too scared to admit it. This understanding finally came to me after graduation. I worked on the book for about 4 years and tried to publish it, but received 63 refusals. It was a fantastic failure for me. The fact that after that I wanted to try again proved that my desire to build a writing career was not an ordinary item from the list of goals. This situation made me realize that I want storytelling to become my profession. It was as if I met my dream face to face, and this made me seriously think about how to realize it.
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Despite all those failures, you became famous at the age of 25. How much do you depend on the reader's reaction, does it affect your inspiration and passion for work?
I recently watched an excellent interview with Pong Joon Ho, the director of the movie "Parasites," in which he said: "I want to entertain and captivate myself. But I respect the audience. I'm curious about what the audience thinks, but I can never know that. Because no matter what, it's impossible to understand the audience, I try to stay true to myself. " This is how I feel it. The novel Children of Bones and Blood was a story that I wanted to write for myself and I wrote it for myself. The funny thing is that the more personal the story you create, the more universal it becomes.
Your novels immerse readers in the incredibly impressive world of West African mythology. What, in your opinion, does it cling to people so much?
I think for many readers this was the first experience of getting to know this culture, this magic and these people. It was like the same excitement that the Black Panther movie caused – we have long been accustomed to epic mythology, but we have never met in it dark-skinned warrior magicians rushing on giant lions.
In my opinion, one of the keys to the success of the novel was that you gave the readers the heroine Zeyli – strong, at the same time sensitive and impudent, and even wielding magic. That is a character that many would like to be like. Was there someone in real life who inspired you to create this heroine?
Zeyli is actually inspired by me (smiles). She is a more impulsive and courageous part of my personality. Usually, when I write about her, I think what I would do myself and what I would feel in each specific situation.
I know that Disney Fox and Lucasfilm are already working on an adaptation of the book. Are you involved in this process?
Yes, this is awesome! Around the film adaptation gathered so passionate and passionate team. The director and I had a lot of discussions about the future film and how we want to see the franchise. I can’t wait until I see Zeylie on the big screen.
You not only write, but also teach people writing skills. What role does the mentor give you personally?
Thanks to this, I feel like a proud mom! I like to see how the knowledge and experience that I have gained is now gained by other people on the way to their dreams and success stories. I want to leave this land with a hand in creating as many writers and storytellers as possible.
And what stories inspire you personally?
I share a list of my favorite stories: "Avatar: The Last Airbender", "Harry Potter", "Naruto", "Parasites", "Horse BoJack", "Office", "In a Better World", "Rick and Morty", "Arrival ", "Social network". All of them are incredible to me and inspire to create the same stories!
At the beginning of spring you visited Paris at the Valentino fashion show, this was your first experience of attending Fashion Week. Those 3 days of immersion in the fashion world somehow influenced her perception?
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A trip to Paris became a real fairy tale, embodied in real life! I think the same thing happened here as with literature. I always wanted to be active in fashion, but when I was younger, I felt that this world was not for me, that I could not buy beautiful clothes for myself. Yes, I never saw people who would look like me in big fashion houses. Therefore, to play an active role in this world, as an adult, to wear beautiful dresses, to see this art in movement at a show is wonderful! I am waiting for new fashion adventures and am thinking of a project that unites the world of fashion and literature.
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