Tomi Adeyemi

The best revenge you can wear is a smile. - Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American novelist and creative writing coach living in San Diego, California. Her debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone was an instant New York Times bestseller and has been on the list for a massive 114 weeks (which is nearly every single week since its publication)!

Tomi wanted to write a fantasy novel set in West Africa so that "a little Black girl [could] pick up my book one day and see herself as the star...I want her to know that she’s beautiful and she matters and she can have a crazy, magical adventure even if an ignorant part of the world tells her she can never be Hermione Granger."

The idea for the novel came after a trip to Brazil where she on a fellowship studying West African mythology and culture. "I was in a gift shop there and the African gods and goddesses were depicted in such a beautiful and sacred way ... it really made me think about all the beautiful images we never see featuring black people." Tomi drew inspiration from her Yoruba culture, Western fantasy fiction like Harry Potter and Avatar: The Last Airbender, West African mythology and the Black Lives Matter movement. Books such as Shadowshaper and An Ember in the Ashes were also primary inspirations.

Tomi worked as a creative writing coach while she wrote the novel. The first draft of her novel was heavily edited, with major sections removed from the story. The second draft was on a tight deadline as she was entering it into a writing competition, which left her with only 1 month to complete it. Ultimately, she was happy with her second draft and entered it into Pitch Wars, a competition where published/agented authors and editors read submitted manuscripts and select one writer to mentor. With a mentor’s help, Pitch Wars participants revise their book intensely and at the end of the two months, all participants get to be in an "agent round" where agents read pitches and excerpts from their manuscripts and make requests from there. 

Tomi felt there was no option but for the book to be perfect and successful, saying "I’m not going to put Zélie’s face on the cover of this book and give you anything less than an incredible story, because for the kids who have never seen themselves, they need to see that, and they need to know that they are beautiful and that they are powerful." 

Fun facts

  • Tomi graduated from Harvard University with an honors degree in English Literature.
  • Tomi made a guest appearance in the final web-series episode of Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis.
  • She is of Yoruba heritage.
  • She likes BTS.
  • She was recently named on the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
  • The film adaptation is currently in active development with Disney’s Fox and Lucasfilms.
  • She wrote the book while bingeing the television show The Good Wife in the background. She became so exhausted through the non-stop work of the writing that she became disoriented, even at one point thinking she was a lawyer.
  • The entire editing process took eighteen months to complete, going through 45 drafts.
  • Her Nigerian mother helped at times for things like naming the spells that involved use of the Yoruba language.

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