Ingrid Ricks is an author, speaker, essayist and teen mentor. Her memoirs include The New York Times Best Seller Hippie Boy and Focus, a memoir about her journey with the blinding eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa. She is currently working on a memoir about her yearlong quest to save her eyesight, and is blogging about her journey at www.determinedtosee.com.
Talk to us about your latest book. What is it about?
Ingrid: Hippie Boy is my coming-of-age memoir, which was released nationwide by Penguin. It’s about a teenage girl who escapes her abusive Mormon stepfather and the suffocating religion and poverty at home by joining her dad on the road as a tool-selling vagabond—until trouble hits and she realizes that she has to take charge of her life.
Tell us a bit about the book’s journey from writing to publication.
Ingrid: I’d dreamed of writing Hippie Boy for years and took plenty of memoir writing classes a long the way, but I could never seem to give myself permission to really go after it. Then two aha moments changed this for me: 1) I was diagnosed with an incurable degenerative eye disease that’s stealing my eyesight; 2) my daughters did a parody of me as an old woman—still dreaming about finishing my book. Between the two, I realized that life is short and the time to embrace my dream was NOW. Four years ago, I finally gave myself permission to finish my book and take it out into the world. After a year with an agent, I decided to self-publish Hippie Boy in the fall of 2011 and then continued to believe in my book and continued to get it out into the Universe. In June 2013, Hippie Boy hit the New York Times eBook best seller list and was quickly acquired by Berkley, a division of Penguin. Along the way I’ve also co-founded www.weareabsolutelynotokay.org, a nationally recognized program that uses Hippie Boy as a guide to help teens find their voice and power by writing and publishing their personal stories.
Ingrid: The biggest hurdle was believing in myself and finally giving myself permission to go after my book writing/author dream. Once I overcame that, the rest was fairly easy.
What writing projects are working on presently?
Ingrid: I’m working on ‘Determined to See’, a memoir about my quest to heal my eyesight from the degenerative eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa.
If you were to meet an author you admire, what would you want to know about him/her?
Ingrid: If I were to meet Maya Angelou, I would ask her what inspired her to keep going on those days when life was so tough and the hurdles seemed insurmountable. I would also ask her what she dreams of now.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about being an author?
Ingrid: I think a lot of people are still under the impression that if you write a great book, your job is done…that if the book is good enough, it will sell on its own. The reality is that writing the best book you can write is only the beginning of the process. If you want to sell books and make it as an author, you’ve got to generate ongoing exposure through PR, marketing and cross-promotion. This holds true whether you self-publish or have the backing of a large traditional publisher.
What advice would you give to writers who want to self-publish?
Ingrid: Don’t rush it. Write the best book you can write and then make sure you’ve got a professional presentation: a compelling cover that pops as both a thumbnail and print; an amazing manuscript that’s professionally proofread and formatted; a well-written book description that sells. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and readers are often more critical of self-published than traditionally published books so get it right the first time around.