An 'In-Life Sat-Nav', Anyone?

Listen to a reading by author Amanda Brobyn and find out why she doesn't need a psychic to tell the future is bright

When Tina Harding, the main character in author Amanda Brobyn’s debut novel Crystal Balls, visits a psychic she can’t resist the idea of a ‘sat-nav for her life’. (She has one for her car, after all.)

After the initial reading, however, her in-life sat-nav goes haywire and steers her away from happiness, rather than towards it.

Brobyn - originally from Liverpool although her family is Irish - went to a lot of psychic readings when she was researching the book. Some were quite eerie, while other readings were so far from the truth that she had to struggle not to laugh. At the end of it all she remains firmly on the fence about psychics - despite her own psychic heritage.

‘My nan was from County Cork and she used to read people’s tea leaves in her caravan and charge for it. I was brought up on stories about her and it did always intrigue me,’ Brobyn explains. ‘I can see the appeal, but I’m not convinced that you can meet someone you’ve never seen before and they can map out your future. In the name of not offending, though, if anyone can prove me wrong then bring it on!’

Even if she did believe in psychics the idea of an ‘in-life sat-nav’ isn't something Brobyn fancies. ‘I couldn’t go through life with a long-term plan mapped out,’ she admits, wrinkling her nose. ‘I tend to take a very short-term view of things.’

So far that way of looking at things seems to be paying off for Brobyn. In 2010 she packed in her 16 year, ‘very renumerative’, career as a bank manager two weeks before Poolbeg offered her a book deal.

‘I put my faith in the universe,’ Brobyn says.

It might sound like over-night success, but in fact Brobyn has been writing since 2003. As a member and treasurer of Screenwriters Inc, Brobyn initially focused on learning the technical skills of writing for film and television.

‘I actually started writing Crystal Balls in Final Draft as a feature film, before I got a hunch to write it as a novel,’ Brobyn says. ‘I had seen so many films that were adaptations of books that I thought I’d write a novel and then I could write the adaptation.’

The skill-set for writing a novel and writing a screenplay are very different indeed. Brobyn, however, has a ‘big certificate’ to prove she can do it. In December 2010 she graduated from Queen's University with an MA in Film and TV Production and wrote her dissertation on adaptations from book to screen. 

Then there is her practical experience. In 2005 she co-wrote Juncture, a short film, with her Screenwriters Inc colleague Spence Wright, writer of horror film Red Mist. The movie premiered at the Queen’s Film Theatre. ‘Scriptwriting is my preferred method,’ Brobyn admits. ‘It’s what I feel I am more technically good at.’

Poolbeg, however, were happy to invest in a three book deal on the basis of Brobyn’s ability as a novelist. Crystal Balls is officially available from February 26, and Brobyn is already hard at work on a second novel, The Curry Club.

They are two very different books. In The Curry Club a group of five friends meet weekly to discuss a bowl of problems over bowls of curry. Each week, after the curry, the friends select a slip of paper that has a problem written on it and offer advice.

It is the opposite end of the problem-solving spectrum to that used in Crystal Balls, and one that, it seems, Brobyn would be more comfortable with. ‘It does work,’ she says enthusiastically. ‘I’ve played that game, in the name of research.

‘My editor says it’s “very interesting”,’ Brobyn says. ‘I think they were surprised because Crystal Balls is a proper comedy, while The Curry Club, although it has its comedic moments, is more dense. And it’s quite a sexy book.’

As for what the future holds for Brobyn, she isn’t recruiting advice from psychics or friends just yet. She still has one book to write and ‘lots to do in Northern Ireland’. When pressed she admits that, while she loves it here, there are things she misses in Liverpool.

‘I miss my family,’ she sighs. ‘When I got the box full of Crystal Balls from Poolbeg I wished I could just give them directly to my mum, my sister, my best friend. That stretch of water does make me feel a little claustrophobic sometimes.’