A professional actor whose performances have been praised by Broadway World and Nashville Scene, Henry O. Arnold dove into writing as another way to express his love for a well-told story.

In this interview, Henry talks with us about the first book in his new The Urban Chronicles Series, titled The Mercy Seat.

FF: What inspired the story in your book?
My wife, Kay, dared me to make up a story out of whole cloth. Just sit down and start writing and see what happens, she said. With my historical fiction books, I have at least had a loose outline to follow, a commitment to be true to the known facts while telling a good story. But not with The Mercy Seat. It was scary at first. I had nothing to go on. I just knew I wanted this novel to be set in the present time, in a large city, and that my characters would be relatable.

FF: What can you tell us about the main characters in your book?
I created the character of Maxwell Crane, an ex-Marine chaplain and pastor of The Mercy Seat church. He and his wife, Kenda, are a mixed-race couple with three teenage children, and together, they live in an underserved community in a large city. Once I dreamed up the Crane family, I had to give each of them an ordeal that would test their characters and show their complexity.

FF: Which character surprised you the most?
In The Mercy Seat a hero might do something villainous or a villain might do something heroic. I never really knew what my characters might do until they appeared in my imagination. I kept imagining and typing and eventually I completed the novel filled with twists, turns, and surprises. Characters I didn’t expect kept appearing requesting a role in the story. I always enjoy the writing process, but this one had a special pleasure because every character had a believable persona and came with specific motivations and desires that made them believable humans. I tried to keep out of their way and let the story unfold as they wished for it to be told.

FF: Why do you think storytelling is such a powerful way to share truth?
A conscious part of my creative life is to give myself the freedom to explore all aspects of human nature from the secret wounds we carry to the outward actions we choose to take. I am capable of making a thousand choices for good or evil. I face that reality head-on and try to bring illumination to myself and the reader. I think all acts of creativity is an investigation into the fears and joys and needs and vulnerabilities that make and shape us as human beings. When the truth is explored honestly within the honest context of storytelling that can be very powerful.

FF: What can readers expect from the rest of this series?
I will remain in the urban world and the Crane family will experience more trials and tribulations that force them to confront their own fears, stick together as a family, and rely on divine providence to survive.

FF: How do you get into the right frame of mind to write for your genre/audience?
I just have to start writing, but once I started writing, the act of storytelling takes on a life of its own, and I gave “the reins” to the story. The story has the freedom to race with a pleasure that I could never bring by forcing it to my will. Giving “the reins” over to the story requires trust and vulnerability to the characters and the plotline. It is a mysterious process of sensitivity and sensing the art of storytelling through a fog and forest with no clear trail.

FF: What do you want readers to take away after reading your book?
This story has been stirring in my soul for several years. I have given The Mercy Seat a personal and artistic expression unique to my imagination and with an understanding of my own humanity. Just as these characters and their actions have struck my heart, I hope this novel and those that follow might do the same in the heart of a reader, give the reader something that they might never before have imagined in themselves.

FF: What are the biggest challenges for you as an author writing in your specific genre?
I am required to assembly the pieces of a proper setting and circumstances so the reader is secure in the knowledge that I have created an accurate and believable world in which the characters may exist. Once that all feels right I am free to get inside the character’s heads and hearts and describe what is going on. I allow myself the freedom to invent, and thus, allow the reader the potential to feel a human connection to the characters. This is true for all genres.

FF: What authors or books have inspired you as an author?
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Big imagination. Beautiful imagery. Over the top themes of good and evil. Such great storytelling never gets old.

FF: How has your faith or world view impacted the way you tell stories?
I write because I must. These stories that stir within my soul must find expression that only I can give them. But as I look at the state of the world around me, I see such a need to give these stories an opportunity to strike the heart of a reader in a way that they may never have experienced; just as writing this story has struck my own heart.

There is a thirst for truth in the world today. The Bible shows the One who can quench that thirst. If The Mercy Seat can draw a reader to God for the first time or the reader who is presently in relationship to God and yearns for a deeper experience, then perhaps I have succeeded on some level in the art of storytelling.

The Mercy Seat
The Urban Chronicles Series #1
Henry O. Arnold
Mountainbrook Ink
Genres: Vigilante Justice, Suspense/Thriller
Release Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN-10: ‎1953957390
ISBN-13: ‎978-1953957399

Book Summary:
Hells Canyon is a neighborhood in Richland, Tennessee where tourists never venture, and locals fear to tread. Maxwell Crane, former Marine chaplain and pastor of The Mercy Seat church, struggles to provide a beacon of hope.

But others have their eyes set on Hells Canyon: power elites, robber barons, and street gangs seek their own gain at the cost of the beleaguered urban neighborhood. For the people who live there, it’s been a fight to exist their whole lives, and that fight is getting harder.

Maxwell doesn’t have to stay in Hells Canyon. He and his family could leave to live a comfortable middle-class existence. Instead, Maxwell chooses to risk his life—and the lives of those around him—to stand against the oppressors.

But what happens when this pastor crosses a line, taking justice into his own hands? Will his family, his community, and his God ever forgive him? Will he ever forgive himself?


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About The Author

Henry O. Arnold has been an actor and writer for stage, screen, and fiction for the last several decades. He has written a multi-volumed, biblical/historical fiction series entitled "The Song of Prophets and Kings." The first two volumes "A Voice Within the Flame" and "Crown of the Warrior King" are published by WhiteFire Publishing. The third volume, "The Singer of Israel," was released on November 15, 2022. Two more volumes in this series are coming and will complete this exciting biblical saga. His documentary film entitled "I Go to the Rock: The Gospel Roots of Whitney Houston," will be released in March 2023