When I finished my first book I went through a reading summer researching and the craft and the habits of other writers. One of the books suggested that as a writer one must create your own network of writers that you enjoy. Diana Gabaldon was one of my top ten. I think her biggest strength is characterization. She creates entire clans of rival families each with very distinct troubled and yet balanced personalities. There are some you want to marry, some you want to fall off a cliff and one that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Out of all of the writers that I sent letter to...and it was a huge stack she was the only one to write back...twice. That makes her the very best writer that ever was. I adore her.