Allen Arnold has a talent for exploring deep topics while using simple words. He is an encourager, a noted creativity speaker, a coach, and an author, who helps people actively pursue their creativity with God. As a former Fiction Publisher, Allen oversaw the launch of more than 500 novels. He is the acclaimed author of The Story of With, Chaos Can’t, and Waves of Creativity.
He lives in Colorado and loves blue oceans, black coffee, hot salsa, and big ideas.
What started you on your writing journey?
I’ve always been drawn to story. In boyhood, that involved a love of Superman comics, the original Star Trek television series, and novels of adventure and mystery. My 11th grade English teacher first gave me the courage to move from a love of reading to writing short stories.
My love of story eventually led to me launching a Fiction division at Thomas Nelson where, over the course of a decade, I was the publisher of more than 500 novels. In a world that did its best to make God irrelevant, it was my passion and honor to offer well-told stories from a God-centered worldview.
Yet even though I worked with writers, I never imagined that I would one day be an author…until God stirred my heart to do just that. Only then did I realize I had been in training to be a writer since boyhood. In the past eight years, I’ve written five books. All are unique but at their core, they focus on how to pursue the things we love with God by getting to know Him intimately as our Creator and Father.
The Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
I used to be an extremely driven man. I based my worth in what I accomplished so I was constantly trying to do more. I chased efficiency and productivity and tried to control every aspect of my life. I hated detours because they were so inefficient and uncontrollable.
Thankfully, God refused to leave me there. Over the course of several years, He revealed how I could be more rather than simply do more. I learned to see through the illusion of control and learned to live from a place of wide-eyed wonder and expectancy rather than clinging to my expectations of how the day should go.
Now I actually love God’s “divine detours.” I see each day as a road trip with Him. I now enjoy going at His pace and lead. No matter what happens, we will go through it together. Jesus was pretty clear that we live in a world of chaos but also that we could live from a place of peace…with Him. I love how He puts it: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Let’s talk about your new book, Risk the Real (December 2023). Please tell us about it and why you wrote it.
The best stories reflect, in some way, the journey the writer is currently experiencing. And for the past year, I found that more and more areas of life were being invaded by the artificial. And everyone around me, including me, seemed lost in what I now call a “Partificial Daze”—partially present and fully disoriented by an artificial haze of anxiety, exhaustion, and addiction.
Something within me rose up against that but I couldn’t quite put words to why. So I asked God to shine a light on what was going on within me…and in the world. And wow, He did in some truly amazing ways. I didn’t realize where that rabbit hole would lead but the end result was my book, Risk the Real: How to Defy the Rise of the Artificial.
What I discovered was there’s a clash between the real and the artificial. It is intensifying. And we are the prize. Yet we miss what’s at stake when we assume it’s inevitable, natural, or even neutral. It actually began in Eden when the serpent offered Adam and Eve a counterfeit reality based on the Tree of Knowledge and the promise to become like gods.
These ancient roots continue to entangle us in more ways than we realize. We seek to redefine reality in our image. We look to the unreal to make us more real.
Risk the Real reveals how to pursue the real, defy the artificial, and risk well for what matters most. I believe it’s an incredibly important message for interpreting and standing strong in such a time as this.
Your definitions of real and artificial are basic to your premise. Please explain.
In Risk the Real, I offer a reality reinterpretation—a way to see with more clarity and live with greater intentionality. I begin by offering a new way to understand the real and the artificial.
Real isn’t how we feel. It’s aligning with God’s design for reality and for us. He is the uncreated Creator and the most real being ever. When we orient ourselves to the most real, we become more who we were created to be.
Artificial isn’t just AI or fake things. It’s any lie that lures us away from God. No matter how modern the offering, the roots can always be traced back to the Tree of Knowledge.
Once we understand this ancient clash between the real and the artificial, we understand how to risk wisely in a world that continually lures us to the unreal.
You are an encourager to others, not only as a writer, but as a speaker, coach, podcaster, blogger, and video producer. If you had to choose only one platform, which would you choose—and why?
I love this question because I ask myself that all the time. If I could only choose one, it would be writing. And I say that because books are how I have come to know thinkers throughout time and been transformed by their stories and life-changing ideas. Today, I just finished reading A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis. It was written decades ago in another part of the world. And yet I felt as if we were having a conversation as I turned each page. There’s something timeless about books that draws me not only to them as a reader, but as a fellow writer. To think that something we offer could impact someone decades or even a century from now is mind-blowing and humbling. So I would ultimately choose writing books above anything else. I don’t think a better, more timeless container for our ideas to be presented, pondered, and take root in the hearts and minds of others has ever been invented.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
My comfort place is a favorite local Mexican restaurant. I love the atmosphere, the music, the sizzling fajitas, the margaritas, and the robust conversation that happens every time I go there. Most everyone who works there knows my name and greets me when I walk in. So far, so good. I mean, everything I’m describing is real, not artificial. Right?
As recent empty nesters, my wife and I eat out more often. The problem was my go-to Mexican restaurant ended up being the only place I ever suggested going. After several back-to-back dinners, my wife made the observation that I might have an addiction to the experience. Deep down, I knew she was right. I was looking for something there that the Mexican restaurant could never provide. I was turning to it, rather than to God, for comfort and relief. So now, I try to make sure my motive is joy rather than relief before suggesting it. And even then, I do so less often. Because I don’t want it to have a hold on me.
In the story that is your life, are you the tall, dark stranger; the romantic lead; the mythical warrior; the mad scientist; or the child in an adult’s body?
In the story of my life, I feel a lot like Walter Mitty. Perhaps that’s why The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is my all-time favorite movie. It is the story of a man who has no live (even though he works at Life Magazine) stops living in his imagination and steps into a story of adventure, risk, and love. And a key part of it is when he finds a travel journal his dad gave him long ago. All the pages are blank but the opening inscription from his father stirs his heart. It says simply: Have Fun, Dad.
I want to pursue my life that way, filling all the blank pages with God. Knowing He’s a good dad who is constantly inviting me into more…with Him.
What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?
I love the story of the Wise Men. They left a life of safety and privilege to follow a star that led them, ultimately, to the Creator of stars. They defied a king and refused to bow to his orders to tell him where this baby was—in order to bow to the only true King. And yet we don’t even know their names today. This isn’t a Christmas story to me but a story of pursuing the real and risking everything for what matters most. I love it and want to orient my entire life by the one true North Star that is Jesus.
Thank you, Allen! It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.
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