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After reading Stephanie’s post last week, I started thinking about writers who have had an impact on my life. Right at the top of my list is Tamora Pierce and her Lioness Quartet Series, so today I thought I’d pay tribute to one of my personal book heroes, Alanna.

This is the cover of the version I first read

My mom bought me the Lioness Quartet series back when I was in 5th grade, and I loved it right away. I know some schools do it differently, but for us 5th grade was the start of middle school, and it was rough. Having Alanna in my corner really helped, because no matter how tough middle school could be, it was easier than having to pretend to be a boy and fit into a school for knights. I remember forcing these books on all my friends, too, because honestly, I felt (and still do) that everyone had to read it.

Like any favorite book series, I read and reread these books multiple times over the years, and when I graduated high school, I packed them up and took them with me across the country to my new life in California.

During that first semester of college, these books were a life saver. I was living away from home, going to school, and working a job for the first time. I still remember how excited I was when I got my first paycheck…and then I discovered the joys of paying rent. On top of the stress of working and still having no money, I was trying to take way too many college units, and I was training very hard on the Judo team.

Every morning I’d get up super early to either go weight lifting with the team, or running, and then from there I’d change and rush to classes, followed by work, and then in the evenings it was time for two hours of practice where I’d basically get my butt kicked up and down the mat. Those first couple of months I really felt like I knew what Alanna had gone through, and since she never gave up and was strong enough to see it through, I felt like I could, too.

I know it’s a little bit silly, but Alanna always felt like a real person to me, like someone I could look up to. I admired her for her strength and tenacity, and appreciated that she had real faults as well. Alanna knew what she wanted to do with her life, and she was willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get there, and I respected that. Looking back on it now, I also appreciated that, although she fell in love, she never let her relationships define her, never gave up being independently herself in order to fit her life in with someone else’s.

This series is a huge part of the reason I write YA and MG today. When I started writing, I knew that I wanted to create a character like Alanna. Someone strong and determined who other kids could look up to. Someone who has faults, who’s not perfect, but who works hard and dreams big. Like Stephanie said, we never really know when our writing is affecting someone else, but to me, that’s the ultimate achievement. I’ve never met Tamora Pierce, but my life is different because of her, and because of this world and these characters she’s created.

So how about you? Who is your personal book hero?