Skyriders: Author Interview with Polly Holyoke (Lone Star Book Blog Tour)

Skyriders Series, #1
Polly Holyoke

Children's Fantasy / Middle Grade Readers / Mythical Stories / Adventure
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Date of Publication: March 7, 2023
Number of Pages: 304 pages 

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Wings of Fire meets Pax in this epic fantasy adventure set in a world where human and skysteed share a deep bond of friendship. When monsters emerge to attack the empire, it's up to shy Kiesandra and her beloved winged horse N'Rah to prove to the imperial army that she has what it takes to lead them to victory . . . and to ensure the survival of their world.

Buzzing with action, heart, and friendship, this first book in the Skyriders series shows that kids can achieve the impossible--especially with flying horses on their side.

"Skyriders soars off the page and takes you along for an epic adventure that will leave you breathless and asking for more.”
—James Ponti, New York Times bestselling author of the City Spies series

"A breathtaking, mythical adventure. This is the kind of book I would have devoured and read over and over again as a kid."
—Liesl Shurtliff, New York Times bestselling author of Rump and the Time Castaways trilogy

"Kiesandra Torsun is an unforgettable heroine who never gives up, even when facing staggering odds against vicious three-headed monsters attacking her homeland. Her loyalty, courage, and kindness won me over and her bond with her winged horse left me dazzled."
—Mary E. Pearson, New York Times bestselling author of The Remnant Chronicles


Interview with Polly Holyoke


What was your seed idea for Skyriders? In another interview you mentioned being fascinated with flying horses and the Pegasus Myth. Is that where the story began? How did you grow that idea into an exciting world of sky couriers and skysteeds whose lives are upturned by the reemergence of three-headed monsters who were defeated three hundred years earlier?


I’ve always been fascinated by the Pegasus Myth, in part because when I was little, my parents gave me a picture book of Nathaniel Hawthorn’s re-telling of the myth which included gorgeous illustrations of Pegasus. Bellerophon tamed this fierce winged horse, and the two went on to slay the chimera, a terrible three-headed monster laying waste to Lycea. I’ve also been intrigued by the American Pony Express. During the short time it was in operation, brave young riders raced across the West to deliver the mail and connect the far reaches of our huge country. The two ideas came together in my mind, and I imagined a brave young courier on a flying horse delivering the mail across a vast empire. But then the dreaded chimerae return, and my heroine Kiesandra Torsun is one of the very few who knows effective ways to fight these monsters. But will people in power believe her?  

During the course of the story, the protagonist Kie Torsun battles self-doubt, prejudices and the monstrous chimerae. What do you think is her most admirable quality? Is there a trait of Kie’s or an aspect of her experience you identify with?


I admire Kie’s courage and her persistence. Traveling to the capital and trying to convince influential, important people there that they need to listen to her is the hardest challenge shy Kie could face—even harder than fighting the voracious chimerae themselves. But she does persist, with the help and support of her loyal skysteed N’Rah and the new friends she makes in Pedarth.


Your award-winning series The Neptune Project is dystopian fiction whereas Skyriders is an epic fantasy. Both require extensive world building. Was the process of writing these two series similar in some ways? How was your approach to Skyriders different?


I love these questions! I had to spend months researching The Neptune Project, which is the story of genetically engineered kids struggling to survive in the sea because climate change is ravaging the planet. To make that story as believable as possible, I had to talk to doctors and science teachers about genetics and the changes in human anatomy necessary to create kids who could survive in the ocean. Then I also had to do tons of marine research to make sure I depicted the world beneath the waves as accurately as possible.


For Skyriders I had to spend more time imagining the politics and history of Prekalt, and the original voluntary binding magic that made it possible for skysteeds and humans to communicate. The mad mage Yagarth who created the chimerae used a terrible involuntary binding magic to force sand dragons, lions and desert goats into single body, and that produced angry and dangerous monsters. Then I had to figure out how skyriders and their skysteeds could actually fight chimerae effectively. I discovered botans in my research (Topar’s favorite weapon), and I thought up triwires, which Brandon Dorman illustrates in wonderful detail on the cover of the first Skyriders book.

What was your favorite scene to write? Why?


I loved the exciting original opening scene I wrote for Skyriders, in which N’Rah and Kie fly through a fierce mountain thunderstorm on their courier route. I grew up hiking and camping in Colorado, and storms in the high country can be violent and very loud as the thunder rolls and echoes off rocky peaks. I’ve also flown in small planes through the Rockies, so I know the gut-wrenching sensation of encountering sudden up and down drafts.  I almost felt like I was flying with N’Rah through that storm as I wrote that scene! We ended up having to cut most of it, but I was happy when I had a chance to use it in the opening chapter of The Sky King.


Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from The Sky King, the sequel to Skyriders?


At the start of Book Two we discover that Prekalt desperately needs the help of wild skysteeds to fight the chimerae when they invade again, but will Kie and Prince Shayn be able to convince a reluctant Sky King to let his herds help in the great battle to come? Origin stories are a hot commodity these days in Hollywood, so I like to say The Sky King explains the origin story of skysteeds and their Great Alliance with humans. We also learn about N’Rah’s own origins as a wild skysteed and how he came to bind with his beloved skyrider Kie.


Polly Holyoke is the award-winning author of the middle grade sci-fi Neptune Trilogy (Disney/Hyperion) and the new children’s fantasy series, Skyriders (Viking Children’s Books). A former classroom teacher, Polly loves doing school visits and getting students excited about writing.

Polly grew up in Colorado, where she spent her childhood skiing, camping, reading, and dreaming up fantastical stories. Polly went on to graduate from Middlebury College and become a middle school social studies teacher. She lives with her husband and their two daughters, as well as two cats, two Chihuahuas, and a beagle.


Signed copy of SKYRIDERS, set of 5 flying horse necklaces
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  1. Great interview -- and so many challenges for Kie. I am glad she persists. Thanks for sharing. Can't wait to read this book.

  2. Hi Sam, I just wanted to thank you for posting my interview as part of my blog tour!


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