Review + Interview + Giveaway || Finding Emma by K. Ryan

Finding Emma
by K. Ryan

Release date: October 20th 2015
Publisher: N/A
Genres: Romance, contemporary
Age category: N/A
No. of pages:  405 pages (kindle edition)

For the last year, Emma Owens has been quietly detached from everything and everyone. Desperate to escape the demons that chased her out of her hometown, she’s learned that life here in Milwaukee is just less complicated and less tragic when it’s a one-woman show.
In the span of one week, everything about her carefully orchestrated solitude comes crashing down. Then again, she can’t really ignore the scratching coming from her patio door or the hungry, pleading grey eyes reflecting in the moonlight. Those four little white paws and that tiger-striped fur thaws some of the ice keeping her heart on lockdown and she’s attached before she knows what hits her.
Emma doesn’t have any better luck ignoring another pair of eyes, and her new neighbor, Finn Matthews, with his shy persistence and a painful past of his own, slowly chips away at the rest of the ice trapping Emma in her insecurities and her loneliness.
Taking a chance on her new roommate and her next-door neighbor opens a door she’d previously slammed shut: the door to a new lease on life and the right to forgive, to fight back, and to heal.
And the craziest part about it?
It all started with a stray cat.
She was lost...and he found her.
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Those eyes... they were thieves. Stealing my breath, stealing my resolve to keep my distance, stealing the axis my world rested on and tipping it sideways.

I absolutely love the idea of this book. To be honest, I have not read anything like this (at least the last time I checked). I'm amazed in how K. Ryan managed to write this piece of awesomeness. Anyway, this book focuses on Emma Owens; she's desperately running away from the demons that chased her out of her hometown. For the past year, has been detached from everyone and everything... that is before a stray cat decided to reside in her patio and before a new neighbor, Finn Matthews, came into the picture.

I love how this book was written. I honestly don't know how to give a reaction to this book without spoiling the best part but one thing is for certain this is book was hauntingly beautiful. But why give three stars, you may ask. That's probably because the pacing was a tad too slow for my liking. I like the flow of the story from halfway to the end. The first half was a bit bland for me.

The main character, Emma, was a strong yet beautifully flawed character. She's been broken but she managed to overcome all her "mistake." I had a great time following Emma throughout her journey in finding herself. Finn Matthews was a strong-willed and sweet character. A conflicting combination, but he some how manages to be both. The supporting characters were also fun to read.

Over all, I had a great time reading this. This is a vanilla porter gem in a sea of 90-minute double IPA (if you get what I mean *wink*).
Did I like the ending? Yes, I also love the song towards the end.
Is it a page turner? The second half, sure; the first half, not so much.
Would I re-read it again? Yes.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
          I’ve wanted to be a writer and a teacher since I was a little girl. I’ve always loved English class, so for me, the two really went hand in hand. I would read and read and read when I was a kid and then I’d make up my own stories, scribbling away in a notebook. I think I had piles of notebooks in my room growing up. It wasn’t until I got into high school that I started to take writing a little more seriously and actually post my writing online (which was terrifying and exciting at the same time). The idea of writing as a career always seemed a little bit like a pipedream to me--always in the back of my head, but I wasn’t quite sure how to make it a reality--until my teaching position was cut this April. I can very clearly remember walking back to my classroom thinking, ‘Maybe I can really write now’. That same night, I started editing my first book, Carry Your Heart.

How long does it take you to write a book? This book?

          Well, I wrote Carry Your Heart over the course of two years primarily because I had a full-time job and was only able to write a little bit at a time. For Finding Emma, I started it shortly after my first book was released in the middle of July and finished editing it at the end of, roughly two and a half months. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep that pace up!

Where did you get the idea for Finding Emma?
I can’t go too into detail because it would be a spoiler, but I will say that I had a moment about a year ago in one of my English 11 classes (that would be the always fantastic juniors--can you tell I don’t really miss teaching???). We were discussing gender inequality and society’s double standards about sex with A Streetcar Named Desire. A male student made a completely ignorant and sexist comment that also completely proved my point and I thought to myself, ‘Man, this would make a great book’. So I wrote it.

Can you describe your writing process?

          I used to teach Creative Writing in my past life and I’ve always practiced what I preached when it comes to planning: you absolutely must have an outline. That outline can ebb and flow, but it has to be there before you ever write the first chapter because you have to know where you’re going before you can start. I also write character sketches and short bios for each of the main characters to get a feel for their backgrounds and personalities before I start writing. During writing, I listen to a lot of music--I make playlists and listen to them on repeat while I’m writing and in my car, too. Usually, if I need to take a break or get stuck, I go on a run, listen to that playlist, and typically by the end of my run, I’ve got the issue all worked out (or, at least, most of it).

          I’ve also gotten a lot better at involving other people in my writing process, too. I have a few awesome beta-readers who give me really honest, constructive feedback to help me work out all the kinks before publishing.

Do you have writing inspirations? Who are they and how did they affect you as a writer?

          Can I just say that one of my life goals is to be Karina Halle? Is that okay? Ah...anyway, I think every indie author owes a huge debt to authors like Karina Halle, Jamie McGuire, Colleen Hoover, Alice Clayton, and Abbi Glines for really paving the way. I was literally just walking through the romance section at Barnes and Noble today and so many indie authors that I read a few years ago were sitting right there on the shelves. It really gives such hope to an author like me, who’s just starting out and trying to get her foot in the door, that it really can happen. You really can be successful now as an indie author and those authors inspired me to try to make it happen for myself.

What's your favorite book/s last year?

          It’s so hard to choose because there are so many! I really loved The Fault In Our Stars (ugly-cry alert!) and finally tackled Going Clear (you know, that one about the inner-workings of’s seriously the scariest book I’ve ever read). I also discovered the Addicted to You series by Krista and Becca Ritchie and now, I’ve devoured all their books. More recently, I loved, loved, LOVED Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre and Wicked Restless by Ginger Scott completely took me by surprise, but I’ve already re-read it twice. I just finished a re-read of Wallbanger by Alice Clayton and now, I think I’m going to start a re-read of The Unidentified Redhead tonight, too.

What do you do when you're not writing?

          Since my teaching position was eliminated, I decided not to find another teaching job and just write. I also work part-time in retail and it’s really not as bad as it sounds because I have the best boss ever. For fun, I’m all about getting outside and running, listening to music, or hanging out with my boyfriend and my cat. If you’ve read Finding Emma, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’m a Packer fan. We have season tickets and get to head to Lambeau three games a year. I’m also a product junkie (something else that won’t be surprising to you if you’ve read Finding Emma) and I spend way too much time at Sephora during my lunch breaks.

What was one of the most surprising thing you've learned in writing this book?

          I wasn’t expecting to put so much of myself into this book. I knew going into it that I’d tell the story of how I got my cat--or really, how he got me--and I’d planned on adding aspects of my own background into it, especially all the Packer references and teaching experience, but as I was writing, I found myself inserting more and more personal stories from my teaching career into it than I’d ever planned on. It was really cathartic, though, because as I was writing it, the new school year was getting closer and closer and my emotions about that were really a mixed bag. Writing this book helped me work through all the things that frustrated me about teaching--the politics, the students, the climate, the day to day business, everything--and by the end, I felt purged. It really helped me close that chapter of my life and I hadn’t planned on doing that at all.

Is there anything you would like to change in Finding Emma?

          Nope. It’s not perfect, but nothing ever is. That being said, I love it just the way it is.

Is there any story behind the title? How did you come up with it?

          I’d originally titled this book, Finding Oliver, but after I wrote the first chapter, I knew it didn’t fit because Emma was the character who really needed ‘finding’. The true focus of the book is that she’s lost and doesn’t realize just how lost she is until this stray cat takes up residence on her patio.

Are you going to write a companion novel or something?

          No. Finding Emma was always intended to be a standalone, unlike Carry Your Heart, which has a sequel in the works.

Do you like cats?
          That’s an interesting a kid, I was always really allergic to them (like Emma) and stayed far away. I never really hated them; I just didn’t care for them because within 10 minutes, my throat would be closing and my eyes would be so itchy and watery I’d have a hard time seeing. Ironically enough, when Oliver showed up on my patio about two years ago, I knew I really shouldn’t keep him because I was allergic and couldn’t have cats in my apartment (also like Emma), but I just couldn’t send him away either. He wormed his way in and I’ve honestly never had any issues. Now, I’m one of those annoying cat moms who thinks her cat is better than all the other cats. Seriously, he really is. So that being said, Oliver has changed my perception of cats, for sure. Oliver’s still the best though. Just saying.

“You look nice,” he told me, gesturing to the outfit he didn’t need to know I’d inappropriately agonized over.

“Thanks,” I grinned.

I was painfully aware of how overeager I sounded right now, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. The Browning Adonis had arrived. All mental functioning was shot now.

He just winked back at me and as he took a few unsteady steps to the middle of my kitchen, I found myself running an anxious hand through my hair, watching Finn survey my little cardboard box of an apartment.

“So you cleaned up a little, huh?” he cast me a knowing glance from over his shoulder.

“Don’t worry,” I shook my head, gesturing into the open air between us. “This isn’t for you. You saw this place before. It looked like a tornado ripped through here.”

“Nah,” he just batted a hand. “It wasn’t that bad. You’ve obviously never seen my place after a game day.”

I could only imagine...and then I realized I still wasn’t completely ready. Ugh. This was just pizza. That was it. And here I was, over-analyzing and freaking out over nothing more than a shared pizza between neighbors.

“Um, I just, uh...still need a few minutes,” I told him sheepishly, already feeling a slight flush creep across my cheeks in embarrassment. “I was on the phone with my sister-in-law before and I wasn’t—”

“I know,” Finn cut in with that sexy, sly grin that threatened to buckle my knees. “I’m early. Sorry about that. I just...well, I guess I just didn’t wanna wait another 10 minutes, you know?”

And with those words, all the doubt lingering over what this was, my own hang-ups, Finn’s intentions…everything…it all just slipped away.

“So, take your time,” Finn went on, leaning an arm against the dividing wall between my kitchen and my living room. “I can wait.”

There was something about the way one side of his lips rolled into a soft curl that told me those words might have a deeper meaning. If I stood there for too long, I had a sinking feeling I might do or say something I’d kick myself for later, so I gladly took the out he’d given me and retreated to the bathroom to put the finishing touches on my hair and my makeup.

Now, as I stood in front of the mirror with a tube of mascara in my hand and Finn Matthews waiting in my kitchen, I couldn’t help but feel like a complete idiot. There was a kind, generous, patient, funny, and devastatingly handsome man in my apartment and here I was, locked in the bathroom because I didn’t know what else to do. Because I was nervous. Because I was scared.

This was beyond stupid.

Laughing to myself, I swiped another layer of mascara on, passed a brush through my long, caramel-colored waves, tousled my bangs, spritzed a dab of perfume on just for good measure, and took one more glance in the mirror. There was a man out there I wanted to spend time with and I was just getting in my own way. Cristina’s words of encouragement echoed in my ears, but it was more than just that.

In spite of the short time I’d known him, and in spite of the sudden frenzied feelings of chaos he inspired in me, there was also an inexplicable aura of calm around him, too. Acceptance, even. Like nothing I’d done before meeting him, no place I’d been, and no ugly, pain-leaden past following me from Hickory really mattered all that much to him.

I could do and say anything in front of him, embarrass or lay myself bare, and he wouldn’t care. It was as if the past didn’t exist and with him, there was only now. It was as if he’d judged me from the moment we met, but hadn’t found me wanting...hadn’t tried to push me into anything I wasn’t ready for. He’d given me space, followed my lead, but shown me a different path at the same time. A new possibility. A new chance.

There was a safety in Finn Matthews’s presence I never thought I’d ever feel again.

It was liberation. It was a rediscovery. It was a door opening. It was that elusive second chance I’d been chasing since the moment I left my hometown without looking back. It was the possibility, the real, honest-to-goodness possibility, that everything might be okay now.

I glanced back at my reflection again and shook my head, a mirthless laugh escaping my lips. Turning this into something it wasn’t would only end up hurting myself in the long run. And while the idea that redemption, forgiveness, and second chances were irrevocably intertwined with a man, especially a man I barely knew, flew directly in the face of being the independent woman I’d once prided myself on being, maybe that was something I could live with.

That last thought was enough to propel me from the bathroom and back towards my poor excuse for a living room and I found Finn leaning against the wall with Oliver tucked under his arm and his free hand scratching underneath my cat’s chin.

Something clicked into place for me then and the time for second-guessing and overanalyzing was over. My feet padded over to him and the sight of that bright smile curling into his handsome face, the smile that was all for me, only spurred me towards him. Just as he pushed off the wall and turned to face me, my hands slid over both his cheeks to bring in him closer and then I pressed my lips against his mouth.

It only lasted for a moment, but when I pulled back, Oliver abruptly dropped to the carpet. Finn’s lips curved and his free arm snaked around my waist to pull me in as close to his chest as possible as his head dipped lower to capture my lips.

This time he didn’t let me pull back so easily. This time his lips parted, sealing his mouth over mine, taking the control and pressing me even deeper into his chest. My hands trailed down his cheeks to his neck, finally resting over the hard, sinewy muscles over his worn T-shirt.

His lips continued their ministrations and my feet lifted up onto my toes, Finn pulling me along with him as he leaned back. Then, he settled me back onto my feet, placing sweet, feather-light kisses against my lips and the hand around my waist drifted a little further down, curving down the side of my hip.

That was a little more than I felt ready for and when I pulled back just enough, Finn didn’t miss a beat, sliding his hand back up to its original resting place.

“Sorry,” he murmured against my lips.

I laughed and he quickly caught it with his mouth.

“It’s okay,” I managed to get out in between kisses with another laugh.

There was something about how careful he was being with me that told me pulling back and pumping the brakes was absolutely fine with him. No pressure and no need to rush something that just felt so good.

About the author:
K. Ryan is a former English teacher, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2009. In between ‘real life’ duties, she’s been writing the Carry Your Heart series quietly on the side for the last two years. When not writing, she’s either binge-watching something on Netflix, running, reading, or cheering on the Packers. She lives in the Green Bay area with her crazy-supportive boyfriend and the best decision of her adult life, a not-so-stray cat named Oliver..
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