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Do Not Open Until 23

Lydia R. Outland Author Interview

Ash and Gold follows a woman whose normal life is shattered when she’s consumed by nightmares and a dark underworld of cults is revealed. Where did the idea for the story come from and how did it change as you wrote?

The idea for the novel initially came from a time capsule. When I was around 13 years old, I made a time capsule for myself ten years in the future. I filled a box with random things that I found important at the time, including songs, stories, journal entries, photos of my family and friends, and most importantly, a cassette tape with recorded messages from younger me to future me. I wrapped the little box up with duct tape. Wrote “Do Not Open Until 23” on the box in big block letters and tucked it away in a corner of my closet.

Ten years later I pulled out the little box and checked the contents. I was surprised to find that I had forgotten nearly everything I had put in there, including what I had said on the cassette tape. I spent a fun evening listening to ten years ago me giving current me advice on life (in a way only a thirteen-year-old could) and that sparked the idea: what if there was a girl who was listening to a past version of herself, one she didn’t remember, but one that gave advice. What if that past version was older, not younger? How could that occur? Why would it occur? What secrets could such a little cassette tape hold?
From there the story kind of snowballed into Ash and Gold as it is now.

I enjoyed the overall eerie feeling embedded in the story. What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer in this book?

Well, I wrote a good portion of this novel during quarantine, and I challenged myself to set out the entire morning, every day, to simply sit down (drink lots of coffee) and write. Challenge completed, I guess?
I am also so glad you enjoyed the eerie feeling! I did my best to keep a creepy under tone without overdoing it or having it come across as goofy. It is difficult to tell, since I can’t step out of myself to read what I have written. I know the vibe I’m try for, but it’s sometimes hard to tell if I am successful. So, thank you!

What scene in the story did you have the most fun writing?

That is honestly a hard question—I had a great deal of fun writing this book overall. But the first scene that comes to mind is the scene when Buggy meets Theo for the first time at the cabin. The dialogue between Theo and Buggy were always some of my favorite parts to write, and that scene in particular carried a lot of confused “worlds colliding” elements that I had so much fun bringing into existence.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am currently switching back and forth between two books at the moment. One is the sequel to my first novel The Strangest Woman, and the other takes place in the same universe as Ash and Gold (closely related—although not exactly a direct sequel).

I’m not sure when either will be available. I suppose it depends how much time I have to write and if I can force myself to hunker down and just work on one book at a time—which I find surprisingly difficult at times. Some days one story nudges me a little more than the other and I find myself jumping back and forth quite often. Despite that, I am making decent progress on both—so hopefully one (or the other) will be available soon.

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Briar “Buggy” Pierce is going insane. At least, that’s what she thinks.
Ripped from her normal life in sleepy Marshall County, California, Buggy fights for control over her mind as a darkness awakens within her heart and splinters her reality. Nightmares fill her dreams with fear and pain. Dreams of evil deaths. Drowning in darkness. Burning alive. But those are the least of her terrors.
An intense power is building inside Buggy, a power she does not understand or know how to control. Just when things cannot get any worse, two mysterious strangers bulldoze into her life, scattering her already weak hold on everything she believes to be true. They show her a world full of psychic cults and dark promises.
They say they want to help her, but can she trust them? And even if they can help her, is there enough time?
Or is it already too late?
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