The first sign of Amy M. Hughes’ predilection for storytelling and imagination might’ve come during her childhood in Alberta, Canada. There, while living in the prairie, she constantly envisioned mountains and trees surrounding her in fantastic landscapes beckoning her to explore. Already reading Tolkien by the fourth grade, Amy’s thirst for reading spilled over into writing ones of her own, which she sporadically engaged in for years. Then an attendance to Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp (at the urging of her husband), Amy realized she had what it took to tell some really great stories.
Her imagination is fueled by a lifetime of varied experiences, including veterinary and factory line work, herbalism, landscape design, surviving a hot air balloon crash, and chowing down on fire (yes, real fire). Still a child at heart, Amy has also been a stay-at-home mom. And throughout it all, her desire to be a writer continued to grow. “The Graver” was Amy’s very first submission to the Writers of the Future Contest, and its extraordinary impact certainly shows her writing dreams are not in vain.
The illustrator for “The Graver,” Taylor Payton, always had what one might call a “doodling life.” Ever since he can remember, Taylor enjoyed sketching figures and scenes from any sort of inspiration he could derive, be it a game, favorite show, or just straight from his brain. He kept doodling in his spare moments until, while majoring in media arts and animation, the goal of becoming an illustrator struck him in a transformative way. While he finished out his degree—even winning Best of Show with his graduate portfolio!—Taylor soon brandished digital paintbrushes for private and commercial clients.
Since that change, Taylor has continued to pursue illustrative ends, developing a style that is in turns fantastical, surreal, and abstract.