Tomi Adeyemi Takes Readers Deeper into Orïsha

Posted by Cybil on December 1, 2019
Fans have been breathlessly counting the days until the release of Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Virtue and Vengeance, the follow-up to her starkly original YA fantasy debut, Children of Blood and Bone, which won the Goodreads Choice Award for best debut novel last year.

Part two of Adeyemi’s Legacy of Orïsha trilogy continues the story of Zélie, a young girl in the West African–inspired world of Orïsha, who, together with rogue princess Amari, successfully restored magic to her people in book one. Their actions, however, also emboldened the enemy, and now the pair battle to unite their allies and prevent the kingdom from being torn apart.

Adeyemi, now 26, broke molds with her debut, drawing on West African mythology and contemporary issues of race in America to create the epic fantasy, which netted a rumored seven-figure deal, has spent 18 months and counting on The New York Times’ bestseller list, and is set to be adapted into a movie by Lucasfilm for Disney. The Nigerian American novelist describes her debut as “an allegory for the modern black experience” and has said she was motivated to write for black teenage girls who grew up never seeing themselves in fantasy books.

On the eve of her second book’s release, Adeyemi tells Goodreads how her new novel takes readers deeper into both the world of Orïsha and the complexities of being black today, about the “intense battle” of completing book two, and which of her characters she enjoys writing the most.
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Goodreads: Fans have been clamoring for book two of your Legacy of Orïsha series. The dramatic ending of Children of Blood and Bone saw Zélie and Amari bring magic back to Orïsha but also unleash chaos and danger. What should readers ready themselves for?

Tomi Adeyemi: Readers should ready themselves for another epic adventure that they can get lost in. But because Children of Virtue and Vengeance is a sequel, we get to go deeper. Deeper into the world of Orïsha, into the magic and the maji clans, into the characters you’ve grown to love, deeper into everything!

I am immensely grateful to every single person who has supported me and Children of Blood and Bone, so it was important for me to give the readers everything I had for book two. I hope they’ll find the things they loved about Children of Blood and Bone while enjoying an exciting continuation of Zélie and Amari’s story.

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GR: At the end of book one, Zélie discovers that Amari now has magic. What will this mean for their friendship and also for Amari’s daunting challenge of staving off civil war?

TA: Like any transition in life, it’s going to help things and it’s going to complicate things. At the end of book one, the world of Orïsha is a world in intense transition and turmoil. Zélie and Amari both have a lot that they’re going through, and trying to keep an entire kingdom together is no easy task. Zélie having a more powerful ally is an asset, but when that power comes from her maji heritage and culture, there’s going to be complicated emotions tied in. But Amari’s transition means we’re going to get to see the princess we love in a whole new light, and I think that’s really exciting, too!

GR: Your series was inspired in part by the Black Lives Matter movement and questions around race, social justice, and gender in America. How does Children of Virtue and Vengeance expand or deepen your exploration of the themes and issues addressed in book one?

TA: By the time I’d finished revising Children of Blood and Bone, I realized that I’d written an allegory for the modern black experience. The story started from a place of intense pain and fear, and the obstacles the characters faced in the book were directly tied to obstacles black people are facing today or as recently as 30 to 50 years ago. A lot of the pain and heartbreak and rage in the story were emotions I was experiencing myself. That made writing Children of Virtue and Vengeance both cathartic and draining. But with Children of Virtue and Vengeance, the start of the story was different.

This time I wasn’t creating from scratch; I was creating from Orïsha—a world with certain boundaries I had to work within and build off of. I was creating from characters like Zélie and Amari, whose lives didn’t directly map on to mine anymore. I got to write less from a personal place of pain and more from an “OK, here are the Lego pieces I have after book one—let’s see what I can build!” In that way, it was a lot more freeing than book one.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance still has a lot of ties to my black and Nigerian identity in the book, but this time I got to explore that through culture, character relationships, and broader themes about the complexities of being black today.

GR: You created this series partly out of a frustration with the whiteness of so much fantasy fiction, making black characters the heroines and heroes of a genre they are often excluded from. Do you feel that this imbalance has started to improve?

TA: I definitely feel that the balance has started to improve. Three years ago I couldn’t name any young adult fantasies with a black heroine. Today I know of [about] 12. Within all diverse young adult fiction, I think we’re seeing a lot more perspectives on our shelves, and a lot of them have been commercially and/or literarily successful.

However, I still think we have a lot of work to do and that we can’t get complacent. We’re still creating for a society that’s had decades and decades of stories from one perspective. We have a lot of catching up to do, and we need to do it effectively because the importance of representation for marginalized identities of all kinds is paramount. If you don’t see yourself in the stories around you, you start not seeing yourself in your own imagination or in your own story. I believe we will have to work harder than we’re working now for diverse representation for decades, if not centuries, in order for us to truly feel like, “OK. We’ve balanced it out now. We can chill.”

GR: At the time of its release, you said the huge impact and success of Children of Blood and Bone did not feel real. Has it sunk in for you yet? And what’s happening with the movie?

TA: I got my book deal in March of 2017, and it still hasn’t sunk in. I’m at a place in my life now where I’m finally beginning to process some of it, but even when I do, I’m just in awe.

When I’m writing, I’m doing what I’ve been doing since I was six. I’ve played in worlds and stories in my imagination for decades. I have imaginary characters I’ve known five times longer than Zélie. I know their life stories. I know who they make out with. So when I’m actually writing Children of Blood and Bone and Children of Virtue and Vengeance, it doesn’t feel like I’m writing a book that’s going to be published. It feels like I’m doing a very difficult version of what I like to do in my head.

It still doesn’t quite click that I’m going to invite hundreds of thousands of people to live there, too. Even just meeting one reader who loves Zélie, it’s like, “Oh, you know her, too? Cool!” It literally blows my mind! So pair that with all the amazing opportunities and success that has come with it? I don’t think that’s ever going to sink in, but I also don’t think it should because it’s a blessing and I never want to lose sight of what a blessing it is.

As far as the movie, the film adaptation is currently being developed by Fox/Lucasfilm, and it could not be in more capable and passionate hands. I’m fortunate to say that I’ve had nothing but incredible encounters and creative discussions with every person who’s bringing this story to life. The process is moving along with passion and purpose, and I couldn’t be more excited to continue the journey.

GR: How was the writing experience of this book compared with your first? The release date was pushed back, and you told fans via a Twitter post, “I don’t want the book to be fast, I want it to be right.” Did you feel the pressure of people’s expectations?

TA: People often ask me if book two was easier to write or harder to write, and I always say “life got harder.” From a strictly writing perspective, book two was technically easier to write than book one because I had an established world and I had established characters. Those are the things I struggled with in book one.

But from a personal and professional perspective, it was really difficult. I faced several obstacles and conflicts. I was under an immense amount of stress for a long period of time. I had a lot less time to write due to the events I got to do for book one, and I had a lot more voices and noise in my head. It was definitely an intense battle, and now that I’m on the other side, I’m grateful for the journey and for how I’ve grown as a human and a writer. (But I’m definitely glad that battle is over. It was exhausting!)

GR: Who is your favorite character to write?

TA: Roën!!! #TeamRoën (I will give you a high five if you show up to a signing with a #TeamRoën T-shirt). I always cackle when I find out how many of my readers love his character as much as I do. He’s so fun to write because he’s upbeat and witty. My books are heavy, so it’s always a special joy for me to write the characters who fill them with light.

GR: Fans love the cover of Children of Virtue and Vengeance. Can you talk about the choice of the artist, Sarah Jones, and her cover artwork?

TA: Yes! I am elated with what we created. Zélie looks beautiful in the digital image, but the hardback is truly stunning. Sarah Jones is an incredible artist, and she created a beautiful work of art. To see a dark-skinned, African girl portrayed so powerfully, so regally, on the cover of a major book? It means so much to me. And Sarah literally worked herself to the bone to create this cover in a short amount of time. I’m immensely grateful to her for her hard work and her passion, and I can’t wait to see this cover in readers’ hands.

GR: Have you started writing book three, and do you know what is going to happen in the finale to the trilogy?

TA: NO, I have not started book three! And I am very excited about that!

I wrote book one and book two back-to-back. I had literally one week in between handing in Children of Blood and Bone and starting Children of Virtue and Vengeance. Not having the time and space required to really think about a story has been very stressful for me, so I’m finally giving myself that time. I know what happens in the third book, but this series is important to me, and I want to make sure I give it the best conclusion humanly possible. And I’m pumped to do that!

GR: What are you reading right now, or which book did you recently love or can’t wait to read?

TA: All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace! I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this fantastical sea adventure, and now I’m getting to enjoy the finished book. I pitch it as Pirates of the Caribbean meets Mad Max Fury Road meets the glamour and whimsy of Caraval.

Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Virtue and Vengeance will be available in the U.S. on December 3. Don't forget to add it to your Want to Read shelf. Be sure to also read more of our exclusive author interviews and get more great book recommendations.

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)

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message 1: by Jalen (new)

Jalen I can’t wait for the next book to drop tomorrow!

message 2: by Kandice (new)

Kandice Lovely Interview! #RoenIsLoveRoenIsLife lol
I am extremely excited for the new release!

message 3: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Fitz I am so excited! I can’t wait to read Children of Virtue and Vengeance!

message 4: by Lori (new)

Lori Danley i just bought it!!! i’m in the edge of my screen for the drop!!!! 😆

message 5: by Macarena (new)

Macarena Bianchi Thanks! Great to reconnect before diving in again to this awesome world!

message 6: by Kara (new)

Kara Suarez I am so excited! I loved the first book so much I finished it in 2 days. I preordered the 2nd book on Amazon. I can't wait to get this one. Merry early Christmas to me.

message 7: by Tiarah (new)

Tiarah Flores I preordered the book back in September so I am SO excited to read it!!!

Maya Lane DeGala Harris I read the first book last year in summer!!!!
I am very excited to read the next book!!!!!!!!!!!
I love an epic adventure mixed in with a bit of fantasy!!!!!!!

message 9: by RastaMone (new)

RastaMone Yes! Tomi you are awesome! Thank you for sharing your beautiful mind with us & I am excited to read Children Of Virtue and Vengeance! 😍😍😍🔥🔥🔥

message 10: by RastaMone (new)

RastaMone And the Cover is freaking amazing!!!!

message 11: by Simone (new)

Simone Early I’m so ready 👏🏾

message 12: by valeria (new)

valeria I can't wait to read the second book and I'm so excited to see what the movie is going to look like.

message 13: by valeria (new)

valeria #Roënisthelight #TeamRoën

message 14: by Madeline (new)

Madeline Noi omg it is finally here. I pre ordered it the day it became available to do so. I'm going to reread the first book before reading this second installment. I want to make sure I'm fully aware of all the big and little gems that are mentioned.

message 15: by April (new)

April Grob When I got home from getting my little man's cupcakes for his 4th birthday to share with his class, my copy was waiting for me at the side door!! I was so excited I screamed!! I can't wait to get started reading it!!

message 16: by Alondra (new)

Alondra Miller I need to get this ASAP!

message 17: by Elena (new)

Elena They look so interesting!!!!

message 18: by Charity (new)

Charity C Starting this TODAY! Looking forward to the rollercoaster ahead.

message 19: by TMR (new)

TMR So excited!

message 20: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Robert Can't wait to read Children of Virtue and Vengeance! Mine is still on its way🤣 Now, I'm going to wait patiently for the 3rd book. 🤭

message 21: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Guilcapi Mencanto el primer libro, muy emocionado de ver que sera una trilogia. Espero que la traducción al español no demore mucho :/

message 22: by Dahlia (new)

Dahlia I have just finished reading book two and all I can say is ladies and gentlemen you will not be disappointed at all... Now the wait begins for book three.

Congratulations Tomi Adeyemi on another great book!!

message 23: by Marceline (new)

Marceline Excellent interview. Thanks for this!!

message 24: by RENE (last edited Jan 15, 2020 06:13PM) (new)

RENE The cover look cool but the author and interviewer are both racist. Also their description also sound like every Disney movie in recent memory. Meh.

message 25: by Joanne (new)

Joanne I can't wait for your book to make it to the UK 😁

message 26: by Livey (new)

Livey I submitted Children of Blood and Bone for the 2918 and 2019 Reading list for Go On Girl! Book Club and am reading Children of Virtue and Vengeance now. Keep up the fabulous work; I love it!

message 27: by Aisha (new)

Aisha Amen I will be buying and reading all your books, so keep them coming, keep up the good work :)

message 28: by Sue (new)

Sue The first time I saw the cover of book 1 I knew I had to buy this for my school library to reflect our own girls' Nigerian traditions and folklore. They have loved it and it's never on MY shelves, always out on loan with a student! Same with book 2 so we are looking forward to book 3.

message 29: by Guy (last edited May 05, 2020 09:29AM) (new)

Guy Bofossa I am such a fan of TA. As an amateur aspiring writer in the same genre, I have been delighted to have found CBB and it has inspired and moved me tremendously, and enough to have led me to finalize a story I had started way way back. I held on to a story script I developed many years ago but didn't have the true motivation to finish it. I have not yet read her second book, though I own it since the day it came out.
Thanks for allowing us to enter Orisha and meet all the interesting characters you have so well crafted for us to enjoy.
I hope to create a book worth your read one day as well.
Again, thanks for the inspiration!

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