Bio: Henry’s novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the Operation First Novel award sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and was published by Tyndale House in January, 2011.
Henry writes in historical, contemporary, and fantasy. In his stories, he explores the themes of reconciliation and restoration. He seeks to bring his characters’ adventures to life, to show the struggles and triumphs over man and nature that helped build strong people.
He is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and serves as Associate Director of North Texas Christian Writers. Henry regularly teaches at conferences and workshops, leads writing groups, edits, and mentors and coaches.
In addition to his writing, Henry treasures working with other writers and helping them on their own writing journeys.
Publishers Weekly has tagged him as “one to watch.”
Welcome back, Henry. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth George, once said, “I write because I was meant to write, I was called to write, I was told to write. I write because that’s who I am.”
I write in response to call on me to be a writer. My work explores the themes of restoration, reconciliation, and redemption. My characters are all flawed even if they don’t appear that way on the outside. Like real people, they carry internal wounds that need to be healed. These wounds affect how they live in my stories, how they deal with conflict and tension, how they handle relationships, how they face death.
A valuable lesson I learned from James Scott Bell is that my main characters must face death in some form. It can be physical, professional, or psychological/spiritual death. To achieve their story goals of the first paragraph, my characters must overcome challenges that could kill them in some way.
I want my readers to be entertained by my stories. So I write the best story I can. And I also want them to be touched by the events and the emotions my characters experience. In some small way, I hope the experience of my stories will encourage them in their own lives.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
November 28, 1968. This is the day I married my wife, Linda. She has been my anchor, my best friend, the person who puts up with all my quirks and still loves me. No matter how difficult the situation we face, she provides exactly what I need to come through it successfully.
How has being published changed your life?
It has made me more aware of responsibilities we novelists face to tell the best story we possibly can, to explore the human condition by making our characters as real as possible, to provide the reader with entertainment but to also encourage the reader, to provide through my characters hope that the reader can also overcome what seem like insurmountable obstacles.
What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading Every Crooked Path by Steven James.
I just finished Iscariot by Tosca Lee.
On my reading pile is Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben.
My Nook and Kindle apps are loaded with authors I really like and new authors I’m looking to explore.
My tastes are eclectic. There are only a few genres I don’t enjoy reading.
What is your current work in progress?
I am writing book three of a fantasy series. Fantasy and science fiction have long been among my favorite genres to read but I hesitated to write it until I was challenged by my writing partners. Now I enjoy sitting down every day with my characters and exploring the story and the story world they’ve led me into.
In a nutshell:
Lord Fallon, commander of the king’s armies, discovers he is the father of two children he didn’t know he had.
The dark forces seeking to conquer the land demand the children and the powers they possess.
Now he must take the children to the one place of safety in the world and come up with a plan to defeat the evil powers.
What would be your dream vacation?
A month in
Rent a car and explore the land of my ancestors.
How do you choose your settings for each book?
I ask myself which story world best fits the story I’m trying to tell. It can be contemporary
Worth or a small town in the Old West. It can be a
completely invented world. It can be as big as the earth or as small as a
Then the details of the setting grow out of the story. I let my characters show me the story world as they live (and die) in it. This makes the story world more intricate and complex because they know it and they unveil the nuances I might otherwise miss.
In my Riverbend Saga series, the first book, Journey to Riverbend, and the new release, Riverbend Justice, best fit in a Western setting. The setting needed the large spaces and the long travel times to give the story to unfold to its fullest.
My fantasy series requires a whole new world with unique geography and governments, conflict brought about by the environment, religious and political tension, magic, druids, and evil dark forces seeking to take over.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
I’ve been blessed to spend quality time with some excellent writers all of whom poured into me. People like Jerry B. Jenkins, DiAnn Mills, Brandilyn Collins, Steven James, and James Scott Bell to name a few.
In the writing world, my first choice would be Orson Scott Card. I would love the opportunity to discuss the craft with him. Ender’s Game and his Alvin Maker series are ones that I re-read and learn something new each time. His books on writing fantasy and science fiction and on character and viewpoint have been major influences. I would relish the opportunity to discuss all aspects of writing with him.
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I enjoy traveling, especially to visit our kids who are scattered over the eastern half of the country. I also enjoy taking road trips to explore new places. I’m looking forward to visiting the
Canyon for the first time.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Procrastination and giving in to distractions that keep me from my work. One of my strategies for overcoming it is to use Writing Blasts. A writing buddy and I developed this while doing National Write a Novel in a Month (NANOWRIMO) in 2014. I set a timer for one hour, and I write until the alarm goes off. Then I give myself 10-15 minutes to do whatever I want. My goal is to complete three blasts during my morning writing time. When I do, I’ve got at least 1,800 words.
Another strategy I find very helpful is to restrict my time on email and social media to three thirty-minute blocks during the day. They are at 6:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 6:30 p.m.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Dorothy Parker is quoted as saying, “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
Seriously, the one piece of advice I would give is Never Stop Learning.
Learn by writing. Write what you want to write. Write in other areas as well. If you write novels, try short stories and flash fiction. Write blog posts, articles, devotionals. Trying other genres and forms will sharpen your skill set.
Learn by reading. Read what you write. Read other genres. Read bestsellers. Don’t just read to be entertained. Attack the books with highlighter and pen. Study the books and how the authors did what they did. What worked for you in their writing and what didn’t? How can you apply this to your own work? Read books and magazines on the craft.
Learn by connecting with writing partners who will both challenge and encourage you. My five writing partners have taught me so much about being a writer and being a person.
Learn by attending conferences, workshops, and seminars. Open yourself to receiving from the best in the business.
Tell us about the featured book.
This novel is book two in the Riverbend Sagas series. It follows Michael Archer and Rachel Stone into a new adventure where they seek to clear the name of a young man, Ben Carstairs, hung for a murder he didn’t commit.
It begins with Michael returning to Riverbend with the posse after failing to save Sam Carstairs from kidnappers.
Michael is wracked by guilt and shame over having killed again when he thought that aspect of his past was behind him. This threatens his relationship with Rachel and he decides to leave Riverbend because he is unworthy of her love.
Sam Carstairs’ dying wish is that Michael clear Ben’s name. Michael uses this as an excuse to leave Riverbend, leaving only vague promises to return. Rachel follows him after receiving a vision he is beaten and shot.
Michael with help from friends from the first book enters a world twisted beyond any he knew in his old life. Corruption, adultery, and criminals who believe they are above the law lead to more killing and a climax that threatens both Rachel and Michael.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Monday, June 17, 1878
He squeezed the trigger. Opened his eyes. Had he said a prayer? Was it granted or rejected when the kidnapper, Maria, slumped to the ground, dead at his hand?
Why would God listen to the likes of me?
Michael Archer’s eyes focused on the flickering campfire, the heat warming his face, but his mind was back in that valley with its lush grass, gurgling streams and stench of death.
At the edge of his consciousness, he knew others moved around the camp, knew two sat at the fire with him.
“What time you figure we’ll get in tomorrow?” Jeremiah Turner, awkward in his sling, poured coffee into his tin cup. He blew across the surface before risking a tentative sip.
“Late morning, I expect.” Bill Barkston scooped a spoonful of beans into his mouth. “Looking forward to seeing my wife and boy.” He looked at the wagon holding eight shrouded forms downwind from the campfire. “Ain’t looking forward to bringing sad news, though.”
Jeremiah sat on his haunches. “Yeah. That part’s never easy. Especially this much.” He nodded across the fire. “How about you, Michael? You looking forward to seeing Rachel?”
Michael started as if woken from a dream. His untouched plate of beans and bacon sat beside him. A stick was in his hand, random drawings in the dirt at his feet. Rachel? “Yeah. I guess so.” But would she want to see him? Once she knew what he’d done? He tossed the stick in the fire. “Excuse me.”
He walked toward the trees where the horses were staked out.
The conversation behind him followed the still night air. Jeremiah’s deep voice was soft and low. “He’s sure carrying a burden. Too heavy for one man, but he won’t share it with anyone.”
“Reckon he will when he’s ready. If it don’t crush him first.” Bill’s spoon scraped the bottom of his tin plate.
Michael stepped into the shadows of the trees, grateful to be away from the prying questions, the watchful, accusing eyes. His horse, Buddy, whinnied softly. Michael stroked the animal’s neck and buried his face in the mane. He waited.
The tears wouldn’t come. That well dried up during the days of the journey back, getting the wagon from the way station, retrieving the bodies of Vernon Phelps and his posse group. The lump in his chest grew heavier, the grief and shame pressed against him, his spirit bending, yielding, ready to break.
A twig snapped. Michael froze. Maybe whoever it was wouldn’t see him.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Henry, for sharing this new book with us. I know my readers will want to get ahold of a copy.
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