Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

'Children Of Blood And Bone' Is San Diego Writer's Hit Debut

The cover of "Children of Blood and Bone"
Henry Holt & Co.
The cover of "Children of Blood and Bone"
'Children Of Blood And Bone' Is San Diego Writer's Hit Debut
'Children Of Blood And Bone' Is San Diego Writer's Hit Debut GUEST: Tomi Adeyemi, author, "Children of Blood and Bone"

This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. A San Diego writer is now a best-selling author for young adults. Tomi Adeyemi is just 24 but her first book, Children Of Blood And Bone is a major hit and is already be adapted into a movie series. It is a trilogy set in a world of magic, inspired by Adeyemi's heritage. She talked with the producer Michael Lipkin. >> Tell me, discovered the world of children of blood and bone. >> Yeah, so it's basically Black Panther but with magic. So, where Black Panther was this sci-fi reimagining of Africa. Children Of Blood And Bone takes that but with a magical spin. So, we have these epic jungles. And deserts, we have these giant magical liens. And it's based off of my Nigerian heritage so all of the cities are named after real Nigerian cities and it's kind of a celebration of both Nigerian and West African culture. >> It's a common theme in a lot of fantasy books where magic gets lost which is what happens in his world and in some but he has to go on a journey to bring it back. >> Yes. >> Why did you choose that structure? >> I started with the idea of magic being lost, I had read another fantasy that took place in a world where there had been magic and there was no magic anymore. It wasn't explored at all and I was like why are we running around this castle. We are not playing with the economics of the world you set up. I said you wasted it, so I need to fix it. That's where it started. Then, this book also became my way to talk about what was going on in the world and police brutality and really getting to I guess dive deep into that in a way, I don't think people talk about a lot because we know the phrase lack lives matter, we know the hashtags, we know the videos but it's like we do not talk about the emotional toll of that. And the emotional toll of that when you are the survivor and you are the person seeing people who look like you get guns down by the police. So, I thought that was another story and my boyfriend was like I think that's the same story so all of those were working in. It starts that way but there are these added layers when I came back to this idea of magic being lost, I was like oh, wow, that's kind of when you go up like a marginalized person in the world is unicorns and rainbows and jellybeans. And then one day you see that person on the baseball field, that white parents yelling at your older brother at the time and calling him the and word and you're like what's going on. And one day, everyone has it, they had that experience with a realize oh, I'm different. And because I'm different, things are going to be harder for me and different people are going to hate me. And it's like going from the magical world to this black and white and it's really hard. You see, you have all this beautiful stuff, like a hapless -- happy childhood. It's a beautiful place that's with array violently. And I think that happens to a lot of marginalized people every day. Being >> Speaking of islands, you have various parts of the book where you have taken from the real world and put it in this magical world, why was it important to you to put those incidences of violence, police violence in a fantasy setting as opposed to a more modern setting. >> Whenever we interact with something, we come with all of our prejudices and those are things that are really hard to unlearn and really hard to pick apart because they are always on, there are always the lenses in which you are interpreting everything you see where is when you go into a fantasy world, this is a brand-new world and the role of very clearly laid out for you in black and white so you can see, I can show you the same video like a 17-year-old girl in Florida being thrown down to the ground by police officers and I can show you that scene in the book and in the book, it's going to be very hard for someone to be like well, actually all lives matter. You're like no. This is wrong. This person did not do anything, this person is a child and this is an authority you're abusing power and abusing a child physically. For me, it was about being able to show that and then take the lens often have people go oh. And I have seen even one person they were like this is going to sound dumb, but I did not realize how bad things still were. And it's kind of I guess easy if you are not looking for it. You know, whereas for me it's like I don't go, I can't go one hour on Twitter without finding out about another person who has been shot or seeing a black person who Jay walked and got tased by police officer this is Constance, this is day today. If you're not following those things if you're not looking for it, you may not know it, so I know it's important for me to show it in the book. And not be gratuitous with it, even the things, even the most violent parts of the book are still based off of real things. Actually worse things showing that, I think it is a conversation starter. It's a way to get through to people without all of those preconceived notions. >> Yearbook Children Of Blood And Bone is coming out in a moment where our , it is popular. A wrinkle in Time has seen a lot of success. What do you think is different about this moment? >> It's funny too because people are like you did you plan this? I said books take years. We did not know Black Panther was going to come out two weeks beforehand. We did not know if it was going to be the highest grossing movie. But, I think there were other signs of the shift, like for me with, I remember, it was two months before I left my job, the news about the hate you give ING Thomas Brooke. And about how 13 publishing houses had fought over it and you know, Fox and Temple were making it into a movie and that was kind of unheard of success. It also super unheard of for a black author, writing stories about black people with a black protagonist about being black. I was like that was unheard of but it doesn't come out of nowhere. It's not the first time a story like that has been written so I think for a lot of people it seems like Black Panther, wrinkle in time, Children Of Blood And Bone, the hate you give, but we have been writing books and making movies, but people have not been paying attention. >> What I find interesting is that you are so young. You said that you initially tried to fight being a writer. That you did not want to pursue it as a career and here you are, 24, you have a book deal that's going to be turned into a movie, why were you fighting the impulse? >> It's still scary. And I don't even think it's just like being a writer, or creator. It's whenever you want to do something and you really want to do it with all your heart and your like this is what I really want to do for the rest of my life, it's scary to acknowledge that. If you acknowledge that, then you have to go for it. If you don't go for it, then you are miserable, you can't go back to okay, I know I want to be a writer but I am happy uploading adds to twitter instead. So for me it was the longer I lied to myself, the more I could delay that sort of inevitable choice of okay, now you know what you want. Go for it. But eventually, by the time, I was around six months of working my postcollege job I was like okay, I am a more miserable here than I am afraid of trying to be a writer. So, I'm going to try to be a writer. I had a conversation with a lot of people, not just people who want to be authors, unlike don't lie to yourself because you can only lie to yourself for so long. So for me it was like 21 years. >> That was San Diego author Tomi Adeyemi. Her debut novel, is Children Of Blood And Bone .

San Diego writer Tomi Adeyemi’s deal for a trilogy of young adult books is one most lucrative ever for a debut writer. The first entry into that series has quickly become the best-selling book in its category and the series is already being made into a movie. Adeyemi is just 24.

Adeyemi called her first book, “Children of Blood and Bone,” essentially “Black Panther, but with magic.” Inspired by her Nigerian heritage, Adeyemi created a world loosely based on West African spirituality where magic used to be plentiful before an evil king hunted down and killed the last magicians.


The idea of a world losing its connection to magic was partially inspired by Adeyemi’s experience growing up and realizing the ongoing pervasiveness of racism.

“The world is unicorns and rainbows and jellybeans. And then one day you see that person on the baseball field, that white parent, yelling at your (older brother), calling him the n-word,” Adeyemi said. “Everyone has it, they have that experience where they realize, I’m different. And because I’m different, things are going to be harder for me. Because I’m different, people are going to hate me.”

“Children of Blood and Bone” is topping the charts at the same time the Marvel superhero movie “Black Panther” has become one of the highest-grossing films of all time. And Adeyemi supplanted “The Hate U Give” as the best-selling young adult book, another young adult novel by a black author about a black protagonist.

“We’ve been making movies, we’ve been writing stories, it’s just people haven’t been paying attention,” Adeyemi said.

Adeyemi joins KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday with more on creating her hit fantasy.