At just 24 years old, Toni Adeyemi has launched a stunning Black Lives Matter-inspired fantasy trilogy, the phenomenon that is Children of Blood and Bone. Before the first book was even finished, its film rights sold around seven figures and generated buzz for its sharp racial commentary as few books have been able. Not unlike Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, which topped best-sellers lists and won several awards last year, Children of Blood and Bone is looking like the next big thing in YA: a story that’s simultaneously pulse-pounding, prescient, and enchanting.
The author calls the book an “allegory for the modern black experience,” and finds fantasy the perfect mode for conveying complex ideas without getting preachy. It’s a process that’s taken her years to refine and perfect — “It’s been rewritten 100 times,” she cracks — and the fact that it’s culminating in a potential movie franchise still stuns her. Blessedly, the next step in this crazy ride is around the corner: The book hits shelves on March 6, coinciding with Adeyemi’s national book tour. (Order it here.)
Last year, as buzz for the book was heating up and just as she’d turned in her final draft, EW caught up with Adeyemi to get her story: her inspiration as a writer, her process with this book, and what it feels like to have a big-budget movie adapted from her own work on the horizon.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long have you been writing, and what got you to Children of Blood and Bone?
TOMI ADEYEMI: I’ve been writing since between five and seven. Writing is just the first thing I ever did and I kept doing it, so I’ve been writing for almost my entire life. My freshman year of college, The Hunger Games movie adaptation came out and I was really excited about it. This was maybe 2011. I loved it, but there was a lot of hateful backlash against the black characters in the film. People were like, “Oh, why’d they make all the good characters black?” Just really, really awful and hateful things. I’m the kind of person who gets motivated by anger, so I was like, “Oh man, I’m going to write a story that’s so good and so black that everyone’s going to have to read it even if you’re racist.” That became my writing mission. The first story that I wrote for that mission did not go anywhere, but it took me about three or four years. I needed it because it taught me everything about writing and it taught me everything about actually how you get a book published. Lots of writers’ first books don’t go anywhere, but this was such a valuable learning experience that I couldn’t have done what I did with this book without that book.
I learned that book wasn’t going anywhere, but I also learned I didn’t want it to go anywhere because I saw what was out there and I knew I could do better. Then I was really inspired after reading books like Shadowshaper by José Older and An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. This was on the tail-end of me still on my book one journey, so maybe between three and four years of book one, and I was discovering fantasy is way to teach people but not in a preachy way — just in the way you can get something across through a character’s experience that helps explain something that feels like it can’t be explained in a universal way. I don’t know if that’s too many vague words. I got that from both of those books and I was excited and like, “I want to write something big!”
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