Fantasy author Toby Bishop—who also writes as Louise Marley—told Tor.com that her latest novel, Airs of Night and Sea, is the third in her Horsemistress Saga, which developed very differently than any of her other novels.
“My editor at Ace, Susan Allison, said she kept having an image in her mind of a winged horse; we developed the world together, on the phone between New York and Washington State, which is something I’d never done before,” Bishop said in an interview. “It turned out, naturally, that the image in her mind didn’t quite match the image in mine! It also turned out—and I think Susan and I should have seen this coming—that these books about girls and women who fly winged horses, and who attend the Academy of the Air to learn to do it, acquired a substantial young adult following.”
The uberplot of the series is a story of a powerful man who wants to be able to fly winged horses, and the conflict between him and the women who do. “In Airs of Night and Sea, the conflict comes to a head in a final confrontation, with the stakes as high as they can be for the women, the young protagonist, their horses, and the man who opposes them,” Bishop said.
The first challenge, for a writer who tends more toward science fiction than fantasy, was to get the horses off the ground. “I wrestled with that for a while,” Bishop said. “My first trilogy was science fantasy, so I wasn’t opposed to a fantastic element, but it turned out there was no way to make a horse fly without magic. Because of my background as a horsewoman, though, it was important to me to make it as realistic as possible. I worked hard with an equestrienne of my acquaintance, using the principles of jumping and dressage, to make the horses’ flights have real demands and real consequences.”
Bishop also did a lot of research on riding, training, grooming, health, feeding, and breeding. “Luckily for me, my sister is an equine therapist, and of course I rode for years myself,” she said. “I always want the information in my books to be right, even if it’s fantastic. The winged horses mature earlier than wingless ones, and they are more intuitive and more intelligent, but they are extrapolations of real horses, not superbeings. Horses, despite their size, are actually rather fragile creatures. In terms of plot, this is useful, because they are both eminently lovable and extremely vulnerable.”
Bishop said she set out to write a horse-themed fantasy, but in the end, it turned out to have strong feminist elements. “That, I suppose, was the part I didn’t plan,” she said. “As I look back over my bibliography, feminism is a current that runs through all of it. It’s part of my world view, and it comes out in my work even when it isn’t my intention.”
Fairwood Press recently published a collection of Louise Marley short stories titled Absalom’s Mother & Other Stories. “They are also going to publish my very first trilogy, The Singers of Nevya, in an omnibus edition later this year,” Bishop/Marley said. “Both of these are under my other name, Louise Marley. The name Toby Bishop, evidently, has become my young adult pseudonym, while my adult fiction will be published under Louise Marley. It’s a useful way of signaling the differences between books like The Terrorists of Irustan and lighter, younger books like those of The Horsemistress Saga.”