- Associated Press - Sunday, April 27, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Danél F. Griffin can pinpoint a few clear moments when his life changed.

In one, he was knee-deep in Oregon dirt, working on a friend’s farm, when he received a call from the company that wanted to publish his first book.

In another, he overheard a conversation between two parishioners - an old man and a child - at a church in which he preached. It made him realize he wanted to apply principles of literary criticism to the Bible. Soon after that, he stopped believing. He stopped preaching. He got divorced.

Both moments were seminal ones for his writing.

Griffin, a Juneau resident and University of Alaska Southeast graduate, just published his second book, “Spiral’s Edge.” The first is “Ellipses.” Both are parts of a trilogy.

He began “Ellipses” days after graduating from UAS, soon after he lost his faith.

“For me I was a very personal reflection,” he said. “I was trying to work through ‘What do I believe now?’”

Griffin grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family. Like his father, Griffin was a Southern Baptist minister. His grandfather, Felton Griffin, started the Alaska Baptist convention in the 1940s.

“It’s very difficult to be a student of literature, and also be, in my experience, a very legalistic (doctrinistic) religious person,” he said. “The Bible is a good, important perspective, but it’s not the only one. … I wrote ‘Ellipses’ trying to figure out what my foundation was. I found myself coming back to literature, and reading, and writing, and the process of exploring and entering into that conversation.”

In study groups at church, he began asking questions, wondering if he and others were interpreting parts of the Bible wrong. That questioning wasn’t well-received.

It was also around the time of the Iraq invasion.

“I remember thinking ‘Jesus would want us to forgive,’” he said. “I started preaching that, and I met with a lot of resistance. … That was the turning point for me.”

Now, he calls himself “mostly just a nihilistic pantheist.”

He wrote the first draft of “Ellipses” over that summer, inspired by a dream in which he received a letter from his dying mother. In the dream, he was told to never open the letter.

The desire to open the letter - to discover the mystery - versus the reluctance to do something against his mother’s wishes is, he said, at the heart of the first book.

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