I first got to know Kama O’Connor (writing as Kristine Lynn) back when we were in the same MFA for Creative Writing program. Her critique was always so useful, and I learned tons about craft from her. MOUNTAIN TREASURE is her first romance novel. Have a look:

Paige Connors is certain of two facts: she loves her job as a traveling pediatrician, and she will never, never end up in her hometown of Banberry, Idaho. However, when a strikingly handsome former Marine moves in next to Paige’s family, he tests her resolve in a way that has her reconsidering her life’s choices.

Owen Johnson isn’t sure why he decided to settle down in the quaint, rural town of Banberry after a kinetic career in the military almost cost him his life, but as he gets to know his neighbor, it becomes clear to him that the why and how aren’t as important as his need to be with her.

When an accident changes one of them irrevocably, will the two be able to put aside their fears, their pasts, and find healing in the other, or will it be too late?


You have an MFA in Creative Writing at Northern Arizona University, where you are also an English Instructor. How do you balance your author life with your teaching career?

Great question, and one that I constantly have to reevaluate. My job is teaching; right now it is what pays the bills, so it takes up the majority of my time during the day. It’s also something I love and have a deep passion for, so it’s not at all a sacrifice. However, my dream is to be an author who teaches rather than a teacher who writes, so I don’t ever let a day go by where I’m not doggedly pursuing that shift. An MFA professor I had, Jane Armstrong, told us that if we wanted to call ourselves writers (which we should every time someone asked us what we did for a living), we need to write. Every day, no exceptions. So, that’s what I do. I get up an hour before I am needed by my family, by my job, by the world, and I write. Every day, no exceptions. Okay, well, maybe not on holidays, haha. But I think the key to maintaining balance was deciding that writing is a career I desperately want, realizing that the time has to come from somewhere, but the work has to come from me. If I keep that up, there’s no reason I can’t have a successful career as both an author and teacher.


I remember Jane Armstrong very fondly. I only had one class with her, but I learned so much in that short time. MOUNTAIN TREASURE explores putting aside fears in order to start over. How did you know this needed to be a theme in the book?

Oooh, another great question. In a sense, this particular book is a reflection of where I was at when I wrote it. I was newly married to a man that took on my daughter and I as his own, but in order to fall into that relationship and trust enough to make it work, I had to let go of some pretty deeply ingrained fears about starting over, about what it meant to fail but not be a failure. I didn’t actually go into the novel expecting that it would be such a heavy-handed idea, but rather let the characters work through their pasts until they found a way to be together. In the end, it was a wonderful blend of having written a story that reflected my own experiences and having the characters guide me to an answer for my situation. That’s the most fun about writing (and reading) in my opinion–when the characters reveal something about the author they didn’t know, or were afraid to examine on their own, and the reader gets let in on that, creating an authentic connection between the author and reader.


I love when that happens! What do you consider when you critique someone else’s writing, and what kind of critique have you found most helpful?

Oh, boy. Critiques. Haha, this is always a tough one, because I’m such a new author, especially in this genre and story length. But I do know critiquing my own work and others starts with being an avid reader. When I was “researching” (read: devouring every romance novel I could get my hands on to learn the craft of putting my own together successfully), I realized there was more or less a format to writing romance that doesn’t necessarily exist in other genres. When authors would break that format, I took notes on what worked in those deviations and what flopped. For instance, a pet peeve of mine when reading any novel is an unexpected head-hop where all of a sudden the POV has shifted without a scene break. I also became very critical of others’ writing when I felt they hadn’t paid attention to glaring plot holes, or tried to cover them up with lazy writing. This sort of reading-to-critique helped me learn what I didn’t want to do in my stories as much as what I did want to do. Fast forward to when I began submitting my own books for publication. I submitted to contests to get feedback first, and after applying some wonderful suggestions on tightening POV (deepening the POV to really be in the characters’ heads) and cutting down my exposition, I sent the book out. This is where things got tricky. I had to learn the difference between helpful criticism (deepen POV, get rid of as much passive voice as possible, etc.) and those who wanted a change in the story that I wasn’t willing to make (this should be the second book in the series, not the first, or that the inciting incident needs to change). In some cases, the critiques I’ve received have led to a stronger draft that led to my eventual publication. Others, though, were simply the publisher telling me they liked the writing, but the story wasn’t for them. I could change it so that it was unrecognizable and potentially publishable, sure, but then it wouldn’t be my story any more. This is all a long-winded way of me saying I have appreciated all the feedback I’ve received on my book because much of it I applied to this novel and those that followed, while others reminded me that the story is mine alone to tell and the right publisher will appreciate that.


I’m so glad you stayed true to your vision. What are some of your current projects?

Right now, I’m actually working on a few projects. The second book in the Treasure Valley series was contracted for publication and has been assigned an editor, so I’m gearing up to make some hefty revisions to that book since it was written before its prequel, Mountain Treasure. I’m also furiously writing book three, which is quickly becoming a passion project for me. It’s so fun, and the heroine is so feisty, that it’s hard to pull myself from her story to work on other things. I also have the first two books written for another mini-series, the first of which is out to a publisher right now. Cross your fingers, because I started at the top with this series, so getting it picked up would be a dream come true! Other than that, I’m outlining a project that I hope will be my crossover from romance to women’s fiction. Whew! My plate is delightfully full! Thanks for taking the time to talk–it was a pleasure!

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