Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Fun: Author Spotlight on the illustrious Allen Arnold! ***GIVEAWAY***

It is our distinct pleasure to welcome back a Writer's Alley favorite. Our guest today might be a debut author, but you probably know him to be a creative force who helped shape the landscape of Christian Fiction today. As the founding Publisher for Thomas Nelson Fiction, he led in the development of more than five hundred novels and now oversees content for Ransomed Heart ministries. 

A good friend and mentor to the Alley Cats, our guest endured a grueling gab-fest at ACFW with all of yours truly ... and so to celebrate the release of his new book we thought it'd be fun to put him in the hot seat. And if you come hang out with us a bit, there just might be a signed copy of his new book in it for you... to sweeten the deal.

And so, I'll squelch my need to be wordy and announce our illustrious guest without further ado... 

Allen Arnold



Amy Leigh Simpson So Allen, (I feel like a talk show host) tell us a little bit about your new book and the inspiration behind it ...

Allen Arnold Most of us are stuck in a story of without. We go about our tasks and get through our day without much hope, without our dreams realized, without deep friendships, and without experiencing the presence of God. Somewhere along the way, we got focused on doing more rather than being more. The result is that we feel overwhelmed, disheartened, out of time, and isolated. We are striving for validation and success. But even when that happens, it doesn't satisfy at a soul level. We still hunger for more.

But there is a better story. And it all comes down to one simple word - with.

The Story of With reveals how to actively pursue life with God and with a community of fellow creative bohemians. Here is your invitation to breathe deep as you discover how to pursue God from a place of identity, intimacy, and imagination. The book is a fast-paced allegory with some teaching. Because for this journey, above all else, we need our hearts awakened. And stories speak to our hearts in ways that facts alone fall short. So rather than more theories or principles, I offer you a better way to live, love, and create. I hope you'll enter into The Story of With


Ashley Clark What's one thing people don't know about you?

Allen Arnold I'm not sure how many people know I love to drink salsa by the glass. It creates some awkward moments in Mexican restaurants when I'm going through half of their salsa supply. Usually, I'll ask the chef if he can make it more hot. And then ask again. At our recent office Christmas party, we had a talent show...and my talent was guzzling two jars of super hot salsa, followed by a Mountain Dew chaser. I lost the contest but my sport coat did catch on fire. Hey, you asked. I never said it was a pretty picture!   ;  )


Julia Reffner Favorite Bible verse or verses?

Allen Arnold My favorite passage of Scripture is Psalm 27:14.

  “Stay with God!
     Take Heart. Don’t Quit.
   I’ll say it again:
    Stay with God.”
   (The Message)

This one short verse contains the essence of life for me. And it begins and ends with the most essential invitation of all. That the main thing is to do life together “with” God! We are his sons and daughters. And like any good father, he most longs for relationship. For us to pursue our hopes, dreams, concerns, questions, and creativity together. Not so we can do more. But so we can be more.

Amy Leigh Simpson After spending your career as a publisher, what has surprised you the most about the "other side" of publishing now that you're an author?

Allen Arnold For me, the most surprising aspect has been the emotional journey that I went on with the characters of my allegory. For instance, I remember weeping as I wrote the Diner chapter of the book. At another point, I was furious for days at a character for what he put Mia through. And I found myself wishing I could join Mia as she created with a group of wild bohemians. 

I also asked God to let me feel a sense of what many of the readers were struggling with as I wrote this book. So I felt a sense of isolation, being overwhelmed, feeling unseen, and disheartenment as I wrote several chapters. These weren't my emotions, but God allowed me to feel them deeply so I could empathize as I described how to escape the                                                                                    Orphan Realm and discover a place of freedom.

Casey Herringshaw What is your all-time favorite activity?

Allen Arnold My all-time favorite activity may sound a bit underwhelming...but it brings me so much life. I love weekends with my wife and kids where we have no agenda and no place we have to be. Maybe that's why I savor unexpected snow days so much - which actually happens a lot here in Colorado. It's the perfect time to start a fire, play games, tell jokes, watch movies, and take long walks around the neighborhood. I think at the end of my days, those are the moments I'll look back on and say, I was such a blessed man.

Angie Dicken Where is your favorite place to write?

Allen Arnold My favorite writing place is wherever I sense God inviting me to spend time with him. And man, he’s taken me to some wild, unexpected places to create. I want to be as intentional as Moses was in Exodus 33 when he says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “God, if you’re not in this, let’s call the entire trip off.” If I don’t sense his presence, I’ll call the writing time off. Otherwise, my words would have no spark of the eternal. I don't want writing to ever be a solo project for me. Success isn’t hitting a word count or bestseller list. It's simply this - did I create with God? If the answer is yes, it's been a successful writing time. 

As an aside, I'd love to write from a remote beach cabin overlooking the ocean, the waves crashing rhythmically as I create with God. I'm expectant that opportunity will come soon! I think it will because it's God who has given me that desire...and desire is always a prelude with him to fulfillment.

Laurie Tomlinson We are creatures of habit who all battle the enemy and Liar. How do you guard yourself from slipping back to the old m.o.?

Allen Arnold I've found that when I stay fascinated with God, the enemy shrinks in his power and his effect.I remember who I am - a Son of God - and who he is - a fallen created being who has lost everything. So I lean into my Father. I stay by his side. And when the enemy tries to break into that relationship, I declare that "I am not that man anymore." Then I command him - in the authority of God - to flee. When we do that, God promises that the enemy will flee. 

Bottom line - no matter what the enemy throws at me, I use it in a jujitsu-like move to draw me even closer to God. Even more into his presence. It's awesome! 

Krista Phillips You talked about the "old" you when you speak... stepping in front of an Airplane because you were a "get it done" kinda guy. Was there a turning point or catalyst that made you the easy breezy guy you are today?

Allen Arnold I was such a driven, productivity-focused man. And the problem was - it was working really well. I was receiving promotion after promotion. But it came at a high price. When you base your identity on performance, you are only as good as your last achievement. So the latest victory just raises the bar for the next hurdle. That's a soul-numbing way to live.

The turning point came about 15 years ago when my supervisor invited me to lunch and proceeded to reveal my toxic effect on my work team. I knew in that instant I could either choose offense at his words and defend my actions - or swallow hard and realize this wasn't the man I wanted to be. Thankfully, I took his words to heart and left that conversation a broken man. But broken is good when you've built the wrong foundation. It's actually the first step to starting anew.  I describe that scene and transformation in much greater detail in the opening pages of The Story of With 

Mary Vee Some Christian writers/authors wrestle with the required marketing big-bang-explosion of our work in today's world of publication. It rocks against what we've been taught in God's Word. Be humble. Can you help us? 


Allen Arnold It really comes down to this - do you believe God has given you the gift of words and story? And if so, do you trust him to see that dream through to its completion? If so, it relieves so much pressure to make something happen. The problem with self promotion is that it has to be sustained with self effort (a loose paraphrase from Bill Johnson, pastor at Bethel). If you believe that in the end, it is all up to you then you either sink or swim by your own efforts. Which either leads to ego if you succeed...or shame if you fail. And surprisingly, either outcome creates distance from God. Because if you succeed in the short term, you may feel you can rely more on a formula than God. And if you fail, it can cause resentment that somehow God didn't come through.

But if you stay with God and pursue your calling at his pace, then you absolutely can rest easy. He will see you through. And let me tell you, the result of that transcends any big-bang, man-made marketing plan. True, it may not look like you expected it too...but God never promised to be bound by our limited expectations. He dreams much bigger than we do...and he invites us into that journey.


Pepper Basham Allen, you have a picnic basket filled with your last meal!! What would that meal be? :-) On a more serious note, in your many journeys among authors, what have you found to be the most encouraging advice to give and receive?

Allen Arnold
Last Meal – Easy! Sizzling steak fajitas (we’ll need a special picnic basket to hold them without burning up!)  Plus generous portions of salsa, guacamole, jalapenos, grilled veggies, and black beans. Beverage of choice - strong black coffee.

Most Encouraging Advice to Give – Don't chase Success through your gifting. Chase God (the giver of your gift) and let the gifting become the doorway to greater intimacy with him. A chance for you to co-create with the Creator on the playground of ideas.

Most Encouraging Advice to Receive  I was reminded recently that the Journey of With is two-fold. Yes, it means "with" God. But it also must be "with" Others. So many writers describe themselves as introverted. They miss doing life, in all its messiness, with others. Yet we can't write a better story than we're living. And sitting at a laptop writing is good - but it isn't getting out and experiencing real life. I'm convinced we must surround ourselves with a small fellowship of bohemians with wildly different backgrounds. Not just people like us but people who stretch, encourage, and inspire us at a soul level...and who we can do the same for. 

***GIVEAWAY TIME***
Alley Pals: We hope you've enjoyed getting to know more about Allen and his inspiring new book. We know it will a blessing to a great many people... maybe even YOU! Allen has so graciously offered an autographed copy to give away today. So here's how we're gonna do this... Leave a comment with your name and email address to enter. If you would like your name to be added to the hat TWICE (to improve your chances) give this a share on Facebook or twitter to help spread the word (and make sure you mention "shared" in your comment so I know to look for it before I draw a name on Sunday evening.) :) 

Do you have a question for Allen??? He's hanging out with us today so pull up a chair, grab a cup of java (or salsa!), and lets have a chat! 

Happy Friday! <3


50 comments:

Mary Vee said...

Thank you, Allen. I feel like I received a bonus to your class at ACFW in this post. We so easily get twisted around in our head turning our focus in ways that tug us away from God. And there He is, arms open wide, waiting patiently for us to give up ourselves and return to HIm. Life WITH Christ is the only satisfying life.

Thanks again for your open heart spilled on the page.

Sandy Quandt said...

Allen, thanks so much for writing The Story of WITH. Can't wait to read it. Thanks also for sharing this much needed advice, "Don't chase Success through your gifting. Chase God (the giver of your gift) and let the gifting become the doorway to greater intimacy with him."

Sandy Quandt
sandy.kirby.q@gmail.com

Casey said...

Allen, I am so glad that I have a small slice in knowing you--because in and through that you have encouraged and motivated me in ways I can't even fully put into words. Even reading this blog post this morning was like a meaty devotional to mull over as I start my day. Thank you for taking the time to be here and to be present--as you are in any situation that you're placed in. I know so many lives are going to be impacted and changed through the publication of this book. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy as well. :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Love the way you put that Mary... Open heart spilled on the page! <3 and since I missed his class, I feel like i got a sneak peek.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Sandy, that was one of the things that stood out to me the most too! Definitely needed to hear that. Thanks so much for coming by!

Amy Brock McNew said...

I loved Allen's track at ACFW. It was one of my favorites.
Also, shared!
AmyBrockMcNew@gmail.com

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Entered twice! :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

Wow, thank you! Words that bless here! I can't wait to read the book!

Mikal Dawn said...

I was going to share this anyway because WOW. But I shared. (mikalhermanns@gmail.com).

Thank you so, so much for this interview, Allen. Each word was a punch in the gut for me, something I needed to read, as I sit down to write the story He's given me...WITH Him.

Krista Phillips said...

I cannot begin to express in words just how much I love this!!!!

Vickie said...

All I can say is wow! Allen, this really spoke to my heart today, confirming what I've been feeling in my spirit. I've been experiencing the deep difference between a story God gives me and one that I create myself. There's just no comparison. I've also been wrestling with the marketing problem, watching fellow writers spend what I feel is an unbelievable amount of time on marketing and promotion. I'm not without guilt. I've spent some time on it myself, but I've pulled back some, realizing that God's thoughts and ways are different. I love the statement, "Don't chase success through your gifting. chase God. Thank you for reminding me of the things God has spoken to my heart in the past. I'm "sharing" this post on Twitter. More writers need to hear this. Vickie Phelps, VPhe1950@aol.com

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I really enjoy reading Allan's posts on Novel Rocket because they always make me take a deeper look of why I'm doing what I do. I have been stalking this book! Would love to win. I'll share on Twitter, as well. I actually enjoy marketing for the most part, so I'm a bit of an anomaly as an author, I guess. But I do always need reminders of the bigger picture. It's not how many we're reaching, but if we have reached even ONE person with a message of hope.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Thanks for helping spread the word about this book! So glad this blessed you today!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Vickie, love hearing how this inspired you today! Allen simply breathes genuineness and encouragement. I know this book will be a big blessing. Thanks for helping to spread the word. Enters you twice!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Oh! and you're entered twice! :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

I might need to learn your marketing tricks ;) thanks for sharing. Entered you twice to win!

K Mc said...

Encouraging post! Thank you!

Jocelyn said...

I would love to learn from Allen. Just the snippets I've read have inspired me. Thanks for this great post!

Karen Sweeney-Ryall said...

Inspiring interview and this sounds like an awesome book! Thank you for sharing.

Becky Smith said...

WOW!! Powerful words! I soooo enjoyed this and am so glad I stopped by. This is on my MR list - MUST read list! Shared on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, and G+ Thank you for this wonderful interview! Becky Smith lelandandbeckyatreagandotcom

V. Joy Palmer said...

Amazing! Allen, thank you for continuing to inspire and challenge me!

Shared! (JoyPs139@aol.com)

Jane Foard Thompson said...

This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you, Allen, for yielding to the breaking, and for sharing the wisdom you've acquired through your new book.
I'm definitely sharing!

Jane Foard Thompson said...

This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you, Allen, for yielding to the breaking, and for sharing the wisdom you've acquired through your new book.
I'm definitely sharing!

Allen Arnold said...


I so appreciate these comments and the hunger for more that shines through them. My prayer is that each of you will hear from God in a new way - not next year but during this weekend. And that what you hear or see will confirm how much he is for your heart...and your writing. I pray the feelings of being overwhelmed, isolated, unseen, inefficient, or insignificant will fall away so that you can see Him smiling at you...and inviting you into the process of creating together. Into a place of freedom where striving and success goals give way to the expectancy of his presence in the process. While our stories may impact countless others, I believe he called you to write foremost because he loves spending time together with you. And story is the playground that the two of you get to enter into. What good Father wouldn't desire that kind of time together with his daughter? Not for what she does (productivity and achievement) but for who she is (identity and presence). May you experience that affection, desire, and love in abundance the next time you sit down to write...with God.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Wonderful! Thanks so much for helping spread the word! Entered you twice!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

:) entered you to win x2!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Jane, thanks so much for helping spread the word about The Story of With! If you'd like to be entered to win, be sure you get your email address to me. If you're uncomfortable leaving it here, feel free to send it in a private message on FB :)

Amber Schamel said...

Thanks for the great interview! I love that 'best piece of advice.'

Shared on Twitter, FB and G+.

Amber Schamel
visionwriter2@gmail.com

Brandy Vallance said...

So excited about this book! Brandy Vallance finerwords@msn.com

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

If you want to enter, be sure to get me your email address. Either here or via facebook message :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

If you want to enter, be sure to get me your email address. Either here or via facebook message :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Pretty awesome, right? Entered you twice :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Thanks for visiting, Brandy! Throwing your name in the hat :) good luck!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Wow! How have I missed Allen's classes at conference? So powerful and right when I'm struggling also with the whole promotion thing. I truly feel like I'm bothering people and being a bit of a show-off when I post on FB about book releases. Especially when I've had 2 books come out since Sept. 13th (one today actually).
So this is very comforting. I'm also struggling to get a feel for this new book I've started. I think I need my co-creator on board!
Thanks so much!!
Sue (who lives in Canada and might not be eligible for the draw but that's OK)

Allen Arnold said...


Hi Susan -

I'm so glad this message of freedom came at just the right on time. The Father always knows what we need and is faithful. And hey - you are totally in the running for the signed book. I'm happy to mail to Canada should you win. I wish you the best with your new release. May you experience every aspect of it with him.

Pepper said...

Well, Allen, I just started your book yesterday and I've already started making little quote pictures - one that specifically says "It's not wise to take your life mantra from a fortune cookie" :-)
Seriously, your words (and the spirit in which you share those words) impacts so many - and I am one of the blessed recipients. I pray your message, or rather God's message through you, of 'being' in Christ instead of 'doing in our our strength' will transform so many!

Angie Dicken said...

Allen, I am so glad you are on the Alley today. As I've told you before, your workshop at ACFW revealed so much of God's work in my life. Psalm 27:14 has become a new favorite verse of mine, and has spoken truth in many aspects of my life. I am so thankful for your willingness to minister to writers, even a group of cats who needed to pour their hearts out to a wise mentor! Thanks so much for being here today!

Allen Arnold said...


It is always a blast to be part of the Alley Cats community. The transparency of the comments and the desire to create with God came through in every comment. I'll keep popping back over the weekend to see what others have to say...but just wanted to say thanks for inviting me into this circle today. Now I'm off to find some salsa to chug. Let the weekend begin!

Voni Harris said...

Such a powerfully convicting and encouraging thought to chase God, not success with your gifting!

Sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this great giveaway.
Marilyn

Heidi Kortman said...

I shared this. I heard a very little about your class at the last ACFW conference from a friend who attended.

HeidiDruKortman@hotmail.com

Ian Acheson said...

Great to discover a little more about you, Allen. And Alley Cats such a clever way of doing it. It's like a virtual "The View" or similar.

BTW, steak fajitas is one of my favourite meals too.

Love that comment that if you don't sense the Lord's presence in your writing you step away. Of course, it would mean you'd be doing it in your own efforts. It's a great perspective to have for everything in life.

Pepper said...

Ian!!! You just compared the Alleycats interview to The View!! You rock!!
Isn't this interview amazing? :-) It puts lots into perspective.

Janet W. Ferguson said...

I heard such great things about your class at ACFW. I'm excited about this book!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

I can so relate! So glad this blessed you Susan! Entered you to win!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Thanks for helping spread the word :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Your name is in the hat! Good luck!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

haha! "The View from the Alley" :) thanks for coming by Ian. So glad this blessed you!

Allen Arnold said...


Hey, this is a lot more fun than any conversation I've seen on The View! Would love to hear from those still stopping by this weekend how they experience God's active, intimate presence while writing. There's as many different ways as there are writers, but I think it would be cool to hear how you create with God...together entering into story.

Kim v said...

So many great nuggets of wisdom in this blog post. And I love the concept of the book on how we are to pursue life with God and with others. Love it!

Kim
kvanderhelm(at)me(dot)com