Author Pankaj Giri on writing contemporary fiction as the ‘middle path’
New Delhi, Jan 15 (IANSlife) Sikkim-born author Pankaj Giri, who began his writing career with a book review blog and after several years of honing his writing skills, wrote his debut solo novel ‘The Fragile Thread of Hope’, says readers are tired of the “bestselling commercial fiction authors who churn out the same ordinary, cliched stuff again and again. Even they want to read original, heartfelt stories about real people with flaws, the complicated relationships between them, their struggles and how they overcome them. They can’t find such books in the bestseller lists and thus they turn towards foreign authors instead. But there are good books out there. They just need to somehow reach the readers”.
The e-book version of his inspirational fiction novel was selected as a top 5 finalist in the Amazon Pen-to-Publish Contest 2017. Giri says he’s on a mission to revive the dying contemporary fiction genre in India.
According to the author, fiction in India primarily belongs to two extremes: literary fiction and commercial fiction. Literary fiction is mostly highbrow fiction, containing sophisticated, descriptive language and based on political, elite-class themes, with the narration being character-based rather than plot-based. Commercial fiction, on the other hand, is something that is meant to be consumed by the masses, devoid of descriptions and containing colloquial language, the plot primarily revolving around casual themes like college love, friendships, and breakups.
Pankaj Giri, before writing the now bestselling novel ‘The Fragile Thread of Hope’, knew he needed to read extensively first. Apart from ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Shiva Trilogy’, he had not read much until then. He started with commercial fiction. “I began by reading the popular fiction novels of those times, and although I enjoyed the stories, I always felt that something was missing. They seemed superficial, something to just read and forget. Then someone suggested that I read critically acclaimed novels. I tried out a Booker-Prize-winning novel. I found it abstract and confusing, the narration oscillating between the past and present too frequently for my liking, and the writing was too complex, filled with big words. I craved for something more accessible.”
“Then, I chanced upon two books,” says Giri, “Sister of My Heart by Chitra Divakaruni and The Forgotten Daughter by Renita D’Silva. I fell in love with the writing and narration. The language was poetic yet lucid, without the usage of any unnecessary big words. The descriptions were vivid and yet not excessive like you find in literary fiction, and the plot, despite being mature, was as immersive as in a commercial fiction. And the best part was that I could sympathize with the characters and feel the emotions. These books seemed to follow the middle path, containing the best of both worlds.”
In contemporary fiction, plots generally revolve around family, love, and different kinds of human relationships, with an underlying message of hope or some kind of an inspiration or lesson.
“I wanted to write something similar, something based on family relationships, something emotional yet inspirational. That’s when the plot of ‘The Fragile Thread of Hope’ began taking shape. I decided to base it in my native place Gangtok so that I could garnish the story with some local traditions and the beauty of the landscape, which, I thought, would add a different dimension to the read.”
When asked if he feels he has managed to write a good contemporary fiction, he says,”I have a long way to go, this is just my first book, but I feel I have made a decent contribution to the contemporary fiction scene. Ever since I began writing, I am constantly on the lookout for well-written fiction by Indian writers. However, I have come to notice that there is a severe dearth of such books. I wanted my book to bridge the gap between literary and commercial fiction, and I believe it has succeeded to a certain extent. The critical acclaim is testimony to that fact. Now, it just needs to reach more readers to be regarded as a notable commercial success.
“Recently, I have had the pleasure of reading three amazing contemporary fiction books. Two and a half Rainbows by Siddhartha Krishnan, Prisoners of Secrets by Lata Gwalani, and A River on the Wall by Stormy Hazarika. I posted the reviews on my social media timelines as well. I want to promote good contemporary fiction from fellow authors. However, unfortunately, these books either languish somewhere at the bottom of the Amazon rankings or are not available in bookstores. They don’t get the readership they deserve, whereas very average commercial fiction novels hog the bestseller charts. It’s unfair.”
He says,”With a dedicated promotion strategy, extensive distribution throughout bookstores in India, and a combined effort from the author and the publisher, it can be done. Moreover, good contemporary fiction needs to come out regularly. That way even if one of them somehow finds commercial success, it might pave the way for the others as readers would want to read similar books. Who knows, right?”
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