Screenwriter Meera Sy’al tells Ann Donald “by being bullied as part of the only Punjabi family in a small mining village gaye her the perfect ammunition for her first novel.

Those on the euxp of and llltle' just oy er thirtyxometliings \yho reyelled in the godlike rayis‘hing beauty of Day id ('axsidy '\ light lliek haireut. pored oyer teen mag lurk/("x (‘athy And Clare problem page and dutifully \y'atehed the l“reneh Cltl.\'\lc‘ 'l‘\' series lllrin' llurw‘x \y ill doubly enjoy Meera Sy al\ debut noyel .llllltl .-\/it/ Me.

The \ague 7th nostalgia backdrop is only one

her nine-year-old heroine .\leena\ ehildhood in the mining \ illage ol"l'o|lington. l’art ofthe Village‘s only Punjabi family. our feisty young heroine \ ie\ not only with the dttal and disparate eultures of :\.\l;l and Brummieland. but the equally diminutiye Village hellraiser ‘our ehiek Anita". leader of the ‘big girls gang.‘

Better knoyy n in the spheres of teleyision. film and theatre. Sy'al made her mark as writer of the eritieally' aeelaimed teley l\l()ll \ereenplay' li/itl/i ()u The Hun/i. So what tirade her moye into the \yol'ltl of the printed word .’ The 33—year-old e,\plains that the noyel offered a personal ehallenge. ‘\\'ith 'l‘\' and film it\ \ery mueh a eolleetiye effort and \o if it (l0C\ \\ ell or fails then the group take\ either the blame or praise. But yy ith a noyel there is lL‘.\.\

Mining a rich

element in the author's often yer} eomieal Portrait of 7

interlerenee and it‘s all down to you.’

lney itably. as \y ith many debut Iloyeli\l\. the autobiographieal thread proyed an alluring one. Like the harem-searem .\leena. Sy'al too \\;l.\ raised in a Brummie mining \‘illage as part of the only ‘e\otie' l’unliabi family who preferred ehapati and dhal to fish

and ehips. \\ llthc aunties \yore \(ll'l\ rather than

Marks and Speneer separates. and whose relatiyes

yy'ixhed eaeh other llappy' l)i\\ali. not Happy

('hristmas‘. "l‘here are eertain autobiographieal

elements.‘ she eoneedes. before highlighting the


adyantages olthix eosmopolitan upbringing ‘I feel yery pleased to haye been part of that unique lll‘\l :JL'neration of British-born .-\.\l;lll\. We \\ ere in the front litre when it eame to eonstantly juggling the dual eulturex that I think ultimately proy ed l‘CllCllClill.i

.-\\ relleeted in the noyel. there were eertain disadyantages to living in the deeidedly non-multi- raeial etiyirom of a small mining village that isn‘t all iolly fetes and gentle laughs. ax embodied by the eharaeter :\nita. ‘lt \yould haye been unreal ifl

Meera Syal: the autobiographical thread proved alluring

hadn't written about raeixm.‘ \ll_\\ Syal. “lit-mg ealletl “nigger” was part and pareel of daily life It \ya\ horrible and dispiriting. but onee l thumped a le\\. people it eyentually stopped.‘

.-\x to the future. Syal hasn‘t eompletely relinquished her telex i\ion root\ (‘ommentiaar on the yery \‘isual qualities of the noyel. I ask her \\ hether

\he eyer eonxidered \\ :‘iting a \ereenplay l’or .l/art;

.lllr/l/r'. 'l-‘tmny you should mention tliatf \he

laughs. "l‘he lili(' hay e already talked to me about it.' .-\l.\‘o in the dream pipeline is an Indian ‘.t'l\l\tll ol

Hill/lire 'Iii lit/trill. which in many may Syal let-ls lx

a natural progression of her nole young eieation

‘l'd loye to aet in something that loeusetl on what my generation of British-born .-\\ian friends are gvmgr through mm in terms of relationships] she Clllllll\L'\ ‘\\'e‘re the \yomen yyho grew up with feminism and who made loads of eompromixex in personal l'L‘ltllltlll\lll[l\. haying ehildren. ete.~

l.ook out for .llu'mr (imu x 1]) in a ten year! time. .vlnrlu .-\ml .l/e /2'\‘.1I('wm .S'y‘tt.’ l\ pn/x'rxla'l.’ it. liar/mt ill/ins (II [9.99.

; Life and death of a sandman ;


‘The real thing that I looked at when l l began to write Sandman was to write ; the comic I would like to read every month. I had no idea if there were people out there who would want to t read that kind of comic.’

Neil Gaiman needn’t have worried. Nine years on and 75 issues later, his elegant fantasy has become one of the world’s most popular comics, with annual sales of over a million, and 1 another 250,000 copies of the compilation books sold a year. |

Daiman himself has racked up l numerous awards for his work and l

; . 2/

garnered praise from sources as disparate as Stephen King and Norman Armistead Maupin’s Tales 0! The City.

if Clive Barker had rewritten

Sandman collection

Mailer. The latest graphic novel, The Kindly Ones, is the penultimate story in the life (and death) of Morpheus, the Lord of the Dream Realm. Morpheus is one of the seven Endless his family includes Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium and Destiny - and in an intricate, beautifully constructed ‘mythology’, his adventures are

I embedded in and draw on the stories

of Greek, Horse and Christian myth, traditional folklore and fantastical fiction through the ages.

With the help of some of the world’s leading comic artists, Gaiman adroitly blends the fantastic and the down-to- earth, the whimsical and the horrific

in a fictional playground that

encompasses serial killers, and Shakespeare, AIDS and angels in a huge, ongoing storyline. It’s rather as

Now, however, with the last issue of Sandman in the comic shops, Gaiman is moving on. He’s written a BBC television series, Neverwhere, to be screened this autumn and, after that, there are more movie scripts to work ; on and maybe even direct. ‘I always promised myself I’d stop Sandman when the story I began in the i first issue was finished, or when I got tired of it. And I know if I had kept 5 going because it made me a lot of money I would get tired very quickly and it would have spoiled something of which I’m very proud. I guess I like to be able to look at myself in the 1 mirror in the morning.’ (Teddy i Jamieson) Sandman: The Kindly Ones is l published in hardback by Titan Books i at £24.99.

75 The List 5- l 8 Apr l‘)‘)(i