Pankaj Giri was born and brought up in Gangtok, Sikkim—a picturesque hill station in India. He began his writing career with a book review blog and after several years of honing his writing skills, he wrote his debut solo novel The Fragile Thread of Hope. The inspirational fiction novel was selected as a “Top 5 Finalist” in the Amazon Pen to Publish Contest 2017 and received critical acclaim worldwide. It also led to him being felicitated by Sikkim Manipal University for his contribution to the literature of Sikkim and being invited by popular website YourStory.com and ABN TV, India’s first Nepali satellite channel, for exclusive interviews. He is currently working in the government sector in Sikkim. He likes to kill time listening to progressive metal music and watching movies and sitcoms.
NAW- Tell us about your book, The Fragile Thread of Hope. How did you get the idea for it? How was the title decided?
In 2013, my father passed away suddenly, turning my life upside down. I had to leave my job in Bangalore and relocate to my native place, Gangtok. Seeing me grapple with the sorrow and the drastic change in my life, one fine day my mother talked to me and urged me to write, hoping it would help divert my mind from the pain. She suggested me to do so as I used to write in my school days. As I was seeking a topic, a thought struck me: why not write a story based on loss, why not pour my pain on to the pages. I thought that showing how the characters battle the sorrow and manage to move on would be a good theme for my book. That was how the idea behind The Fragile Thread of Hope was born.
As far as the title goes, initially, I had thought of naming it ‘Unforeseeable Life’ as unexpected incidents happen in the lives of the characters. In the meantime, I was reading the book ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini and I stumbled upon a phrase ‘holding on to a fragile thread of hope’. The phrase stuck to my mind, and I realized that the characters do go through a lot of trauma in their lives and despite that, they never give up hope, so it could be a suitable title for the book. After taking the consent of my beta reader and other friends and close family, I decided upon the title.
NAW- What made you set the theme in small towns of India as most contemporary novels in India focus on metropolitan cities? Were you apprehensive that the novel may not do well since people hardly relate to lives in remote areas?
To be frank, I had not thought about this aspect before writing. I wanted to set my story in Gangtok to highlight the beauty of its landscape and also its food, culture, and traditions. Also, since I hail from Gangtok, it was comfortable for me to describe it. I felt readers would like to read about a relatively unexplored place as Gangtok and explore its cultural uniqueness rather than the regular stories based on metropolitan cities. The feedback from many readers reflected that sentiment.
NAW- The Fragile Thread of Hope explores relationships in a very subtle manner. How did you research for the book?
Thank you so much for your kind words. Before writing the book, I read a lot of critically acclaimed literary and contemporary fiction that dealt with a spectrum of relationships. I tried to imbibe the art of building subtle relationships from those books. I believe that in India, most commercial fiction novels revolve around two relationships—love and friendship. I wanted to highlight the other important relationships as well: the complex relationships between a parent and a child and the innocent bond between siblings. I hope this will pave the way for other contemporary fiction writers also to explore different relationships in their books.
NAW- Tell us about your publishing journey? How easy or difficult was it getting published?
It was difficult. Initially, after I finished my manuscript in early 2017, I submitted it to literary agents and all major traditional publishers. I waited for several months, but no one gave a positive response. I was dejected, as I believed that my manuscript was good enough to be published. Thereafter, I decided to self-publish my e-book and participated in the inaugural Amazon Pen to Publish Contest that seemed like a good opportunity at that time. By the grace of God, I was selected as a Top 5 Finalist. Buoyed by the fame and the Finalist tag, I decided to make a final attempt and resubmitted my manuscript to traditional publishers. On this occasion, fortunately, Fingerprint Publishing, one of the top traditional publishers, agreed to publish my book. It was a dream come true for me.
NAW- Name your favourite authors. Are there any you’d like to name as inspiration?
My favorite authors are Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Renita D’Silva, and Khaled Hosseini. Chitra Ma’am and Renita are my literary idols for two reasons. One, I adore their literary, descriptive writing styles and my writing is heavily influenced by them. Two, I have met Chitra Ma’am and have interacted personally with Renita as well and they are down-to-earth and extremely encouraging people. Not only am I inspired by their writing, I admire their personalities as well.
NAW- Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
I am working on another contemporary relationship-based fiction based in Sikkim. This time I’m planning to explore the concept of a family secret and its impact on several lives. This genre is very popular in the UK and the US. There is a separate category named Family Saga/Life on Amazon as well whereas in India where we are so family-oriented, ironically, there is no such category. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to do justice to the concept, but I will try my level best.