She's the first author that made me think, "Hey, I could do this!" Her Tortall books were constant fixtures in my backpack, regardless of what book I was reading at the time, and they influenced a lot of the short stories in my freshman creative writing class in high school. Alanna was the first female character I remember thinking was kick-ass (I didn't realize until researching for this post, but the Alanna books were published before I was even born! I thought they were new when I discovered them at the age of 12), and I had a monstrous crush on Prince Jonathan for a long time. Probably because he looked like Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid... *sigh*
Anyway, when I was 16 I decided that I was going to write Tamora Pierce an e-mail. I wanted to thank her for writing the books that defined a portion of my childhood, and ask if she'd be making an appearance in my hometown in the near future. And guess what, guys? She e-mailed me back! It was the first time I identified authors as real people and not as faceless beings that cranked out amazing works of literature in mythical caves (ok, I didn't really think that, but it's pretty close to what I thought...). She encouraged me to pursue my dream of being an author, and while she wasn't coming to my hometown any time soon, she did tell me how to research such events so that I could see other authors in my area. She sparked my interest in the publishing world, and made it all real for me.
If I ever get the chance to meet Tamora Pierce, I'll probably tear up a little. She's been a very influential part of my life, and even though it's been a mostly indirect influence (I don't know her personally, after all), I still owe a lot of my drive and passion for writing to her. She's one of my biggest sparks, and I hope someday I get to shake her hand and tell her so. :)
Which author was the biggest spark for you?