Meet Tomi Adeyemi, author, visionary, activist.  A woman bringing us her VISION and using her ART to not only help us to access the pain that helps us feel more alive, but to find a way THROUGH it. Rather timely… Read on for her process, prowess and more…

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Erin Walsh Tell me a bit about your beginnings as an author. Where are you from and how did you get started?

Tomi Adeyemi I got my “start” in a suburb outside of Chicago. I was young and had just watched The Parent Trap and I desperately wanted a twin and a horse, so I gave myself both in a story called The Black Champion. It’s 30 pages, has a clipart of a black horse rearing up on its hind legs, and the twins are named “Tomi” and “Tomi.” I’ve been writing memoir fanfiction ever since.

EW Give us a quick snapshot of the world of ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ and ‘Children of Virtue and Vengeance’…

TA A snapshot of CBB and CVV is Black Panther + Game of Thrones + magic. It’s an epic West African fantasy with colorful mythologies, adventures, and battles. And my protagonist rides a giant lion, which I humbly believe is the best part.

EW Why YA? Was that an intentional choice to occupy that particular space?

TA I don’t remember a lot from my childhood, but I can still remember where I was and how I felt when I discovered my favorite childhood books. There is something about reading when you’re young that is so different from reading when you’re an adult. Books have the opportunity to bury themselves in your heart and shape the way you think about the world, the way you understand yourself and who/what you can become. And the best part about YA is that several books crossover so that they can be read and enjoyed at all ages or give parents and their children something to read and enjoy together.

EW What are you most proud of thus far?

TA As weird as it may sound, I’m most proud of myself. Last week, I got to see my two books at the top of the New York Times Best Seller List. Children of Virtue and Vengeance was #1 and Children of Blood and Bone was #2. Writing my second book was an extremely difficult and painful process. There were a lot of days where I didn’t think I was going to get to the finish line, and I wouldn’t have without my family and friends. So to get to the other side and see that, I felt a tremendous sense of pride, not only for the result, but for the journey and all the ways I’ve grown and matured through it.

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EW What are your greatest sources of inspiration?

TA Great stories! Great stories are my love language. I can’t watch them without being simultaneously taken away and inspired to create myself. And with all the new streamers and content out there, there are more great stories to consume than ever. My latest binges are Killing Eve and Demon Slayer.

EW What do we need to watch?

TA Avatar: The Last Airbender. It is the greatest story ever told.

EW Tell me a bit about your routines. What are your days like usually?

TA It wasn’t until six months ago that I started trying to build a routine. Before that I was just a hamster wheel of work and stress and haphazard attempts to work out and stay hydrated. Now I try to wake up meditate get ready take care of my dog eat breakfast, and either work workout, or workout work.    At night I try to get ready for bed journal pray meditate sleep.   I’m not perfect at it yet, but I’m hoping to be really disciplined about it in the new year because I find doing those steps in the morning and night set me up for efficient and productive days.

EW What do you think about you might be very surprising to our readers?

TA I always joke that when we think of a traditional author, we think of an older white man in a black turtleneck holding up a red apple with a serious and inquisitive gaze. Or maybe that’s just what I think about. But I think what might surprise your readers most is not only to see someone who looks like me, but to see an author in this setting. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any author in a high fashion editorial photoshoot, but I absolutely loved it! And I think your readers and my readers will too!

EW Tell me a joke.

TA Almost every minute of Temptation Island Season 2.

EW When you put yourself into your “writing place”, what does that look like for you?  What’s your process, what is the space like, how long does it take?

TA For most of Book 1 and Book 2, I didn’t have a set place. Life was so hectic that it was just write wherever I could, whenever I could. Now I have an office–I found I work best with a cave-like atmosphere, minimal distractions, and one big monitor.

Process wise, I like to go from an inspiration dump a comprehensive outline a rushed first draft. Then I revise that draft ~20-40 times until I’m satisfied.

EW Favorite MEAL. And are you cooking it?

TA I can cook literally 3 things:

  • bombass snickerdoodles

  • equally bomb shrimp quesadillas

  • satisfactory breakfast burritos


There is a post-it note above my kitchen sink to remind me of the three things I am capable of creating.

My favorite food in the world is pizza, specifically Giordano’s Deep Dish Stuffed Spinach Pizza. I’m from Chicago and I grew up on it. But unfortunately I can’t eat as much pizza as I want to without my face retaliating with breakouts, so I substituted with my second favorite, Thai Food.


EW How do you work through blocks?

TA Outlining, talking to story-loving friends, walking, and revisiting my favorite stories. Outlining gives me a bird’s-eye-view of a story, so it can help illuminate where the roadblocks are. Story-loving friends and family give me an outside perspective, and that always helps when you’re too close to something to consider all possibilities. Stepping away from the screen by walking always gets my brain going. And if all else fails, stories give me inspiration. There’s always a way through if I tug on each of those levers.

EW Any charities or causes you feel drawn to shed some light on for us?

TA Yes! I’m an active supporter of Compassion International and World Vision. Both are humanitarian organizations that use their monthly sponsponships to support children and families in impoverished communities. It’s basically like subscribing to Netflix if Netflix used that money to save lives and make the world a better place. It’s a really easy way to make a tangible difference.

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COAT Tibi SUIT Akris BELT Gucci EARRINGS Completedworks RINGS Jennifer Fisher


EW What do you consider your purpose to be as a creator?

TA I think the purpose of all art is to capture and celebrate life, but also capture pain and offer a way through it. The most surprising thing to me about putting out a sequel was meeting readers from Book 1 and hearing that Book 1 got them through a miscarriage or got them through three months on bedrest after a horrible car accident. I feel like I’m meant to tell stories about pain because to be alive is painful, but I think the stories themselves and my story as a human being are meant to demonstrate how to get to the other side of that pain.

EW Is there any piece of literature you think everyone must read?

TA I think anything that gets someone reading is something that they must read. I don’t care if it’s a picture book or an audiobook or a graphic novel. I don’t care if it’s fiction or non-fiction or YA. I just think our education system steers people away from reading what they actually enjoy, which then kills a love of valuable love of reading.

EW Who most excites you these days in the literary world?

TA I think more than a “who,” it’s the group of new voices being given a chance to tell their stories. We still have a long way to go in this fight for representation, but it’s cool to see the change. Like three years ago I could name you exactly three YA books with black girls on the cover and one of them was mine. Now there are so many that I’ve lost track of them all. The fight isn’t over, but we’re making great strides.

EW Favorite author and book?

TA An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. This book was life-changing for me. After I finished reading it, I wanted to create something magnificent enough to sit on the same bookshelf with that beautiful work of art. And Sabaa as a person went from my idol to my mentor to a true friend. I am a proud Baaling and even named a character after her in Book 2.

EW We talk a lot about legacy here, and the ties (spiritual and otherwise) that I believe bind us all together. What is it you are hoping to leave behind? Both eventually and in say, the next 5 years?

TA I think about legacy a lot. One of the byproducts of loving stories and always thinking about humanity and philosophy and spirituality is that I begin to interpret my own life and existence as one story. I constantly think about how when I’m gone, my stories are still going to be here. They’re still going to be capturing imaginations and easing pain. It makes me feel like my spirit is eternal.

I decided about a year ago that if I’m blessed enough to get to the end of my life, I want to measure it in how many people I inspired to go after their dreams. So if I succeed, dreams will be my legacy and my life will be a reminder to go after them.

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I think the purpose of all art is to capture and celebrate life, but also capture pain and offer a way through it

EW Tomi, you most definitely have a star quality. You walk into rooms and literally light them up, it’s pretty magical. Do you always feel that kind of vibration? Have you always known this power in yourself? And what is your favorite way to harness it? I promise I am not trying to lead you with this question- but you are clearly a RADIANT human- and I am curious about your awareness of it…

TA I don’t know if you can print a smiley face in this, but that’s what you’re making me do now. Awareness is a really funny question. I’ve lived in my body my whole life. When I went for this dream 4 years ago, I wanted to make enough to cover rent and Thai food. I still want to make enough to cover rent and Thai food. I feel like the same person I’ve always been. I know I’m stronger, wiser, and battle-tested, but I still feel the same. So to get to work with someone like you and do an editorial shoot or be on television or do book events with 500 people–it’s insane.

There have been moments of awareness–like this question (lol). Another one was a picture taken of me from The Tonight Show. I was sitting in the chair and looking up at the crowd and I was beaming. My heart stopped when I saw it because it looked just like one of my favorite images of Zendaya (I am healthily obsessed and inspired by Zendaya). There’s an image of her in a pale green dress beaming from The Tonight Show chair that’s burned in my memory, so when I saw myself in the exact same position I was like, “Oh my God, are you…do people look at you the way you look at Zendaya? Do people see you that way? Are you that way?”

I think I’m still discovering myself and my power, but one tangible difference is that I’m no longer shrinking myself. It’s something I realized I was doing through therapy. Even with all I’d accomplished and all my success, I still had this guilt attached to taking up space, and this weird desire to hide. I’m not hiding anymore. And I’m not shrinking. I’m trying to take up space and grow and not shy away from things that scare me and walk into all these new arenas in my life with the confidence and knowledge that I decide where I belong.

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EW Other creative endeavors you are currently passionate about?

TA So many! There are new books I want to write, shows I want to create, business and charity ventures that I want to start! I’m really excited for 2020 because I’m walking in with a lot of clarity of what I want to accomplish and clarity on how and with who I want to accomplish it. I’m Nigerian, so I’m always hustling. I want to keep building empires.

EW What drives you Tomi? What’s your SBJCT?

TA Friends, family, and purpose. My friends and family keep me going, and fulfilling my purpose + leading others to their purpose drives me forward.