Writer Christopher Patrick had his career mapped out from a very early age. Equipped with pen and paper, Christoper has always had a penchant for creating engaging stories, worlds and characters since before he could tie his own shoelaces.
Having spent time on the Scottish Youth Theatre’s Young Writers Programme and showcased one of his plays at the Edinburgh Festival, Christopher is an exciting voice within contemporary Scottish writing.
Here, Christopher reveals how he honed his craft over the years, shares his excitement at watching his Toasted Fiction project develop, offers some savvy creative careers advice, and details the enviable feat of knocking seminal horror writer, Stephen King, off of the Amazon Best Sellers list.
I’m Christopher Patrick, not an award winning writer, creator of the Toasted Fiction Theatre podcast series. Playwright, director, author, filmmaker and master of none, my career path is a windy one (and still winding).
As most writers do, I started writing before I could tie my shoelaces – which I didn’t master till age 12 by the way. The first real career ‘moment’ came in 2011 after being accepted onto the Scottish Youth Theatre’s Young Writers Programme and writing my first play, The Constant Soldier, under the tutelage of David Cosgrove.
Since then, everything has snowballed from my experience with the Scottish Youth Theatre. I’ve had pieces performed in Glasgow (SYT, Tron Theatre and Wee Theaters Glasgow) as well as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014. I’ve also written and directed a couple of short films, created the Toasted Fiction Theatre series and published a book.
I now work in a theatre as my day job whilst continuing to forge my path as a writer/director/professional biscuit eater.
Describe an average working day as a writer.
That’s tough to describe, purely because it depends on what hat I’m wearing that day.
If I’m directing, it usually involves preparing the scenes the night before, an early start and breakfast with the cast and crew. Filming involves loads of rehearsing and shooting scenes throughout the day. If it’s theatre, I usually meet the cast, we read through, rehearse, eat and rehearse again before heading home.
If I’m not directing and not at work, I try to get up early, write whatever project I’m working on or have decided to start that day, reply to e-mails, complete funding applications, relax a little, reply to more e-mails before returning to a little more writing. I seldom give myself a day where it’s primarily writing and no producer type work in terms of organising projects, schedules, funding and budgeting.
My favourite days are the writing days, purely because I get to focus solely on the writing, whether it be script or prose. The days where I try to balance everything feels a little like spinning plates. It’s fun, but you don’t get to focus your attention solely on one task – unless there’s a deadline – meaning your day can feel a little bitty. I’m working on that!
Did you always aim to be a writer or was it something you fell into by chance?
To quote Severus Snape: “Always.”
From a very young age, I’ve always felt at home with writing and it was really the only thing I had any sense of confidence in.
When I was 6 I wrote a short story that was printed off by my mum and shared amongst my family and probably her work. After witnessing how much everybody loved it, I started thinking to myself, “People are enjoying my work, I think I might be good at this.”
Ever since then, I fell in love with writing and have been chasing a career in the creative industries since. Theatre I fell into more by chance, but I love it.
What are your favourite aspects of being a writer?
In terms of running Toasted Fiction Theatre, I’ve loved being able to work with so many talented writers and actors throughout the year. Bringing all these creatives together for our three recording shows in March, July & September was really fun.
I love writing, and creating stories and characters, but collaborating is one of my favourite aspects of any creative role, whether it be directing, producing, being a writing mentor and, in some cases, writing itself.
Having all the people involved to help realise a story that either myself or someone else has put to paper is really special. Everybody is working together, having fun and united towards the goal of creating the best product for the audience.
What have been your career highlights so far?
I’ve been pretty lucky so far, so there’s a few. Without sounding like a wanker, I generally try not to get too caught up in what I have achieved so far.
I can’t go on enough about my amazing experience with Scottish Youth Theatre. From being mentored by David Cosgrove and writing The Constant Soldier to putting it on as part of their festival, it was my first massive highlight. I also got to meet Elaine C Smith through Scottish Youth Theatre and I was a gibbering idiot – totally could not speak.
Recently though, I’ve been writing comedy. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it is to have a room full of people laugh at something you’ve written – it’s really special. This year with Toasted Fiction Theatre has been great.
Also, publishing my book, Toasted Fiction: A Collection of Very Short Stories (That Nobody Asked For) and having a horror story included in the Twisted 50 horror anthology – which knocked Stephen King off the top of the Amazon Best Sellers list – was really fantastic too. I’m still kind of blown away by that.
Tell us about Toasted Fiction.
The original idea for Toasted Fiction came about as a result of a couple of things. Firstly, for someone who called themselves a writer, I had very little to show for it. I didn’t write nearly as much as I wanted to so I started the Toasted Fiction blog and posted a few short stories on there.
Secondly, I’m not nearly as comfortable with promoting my work with the byline ‘written by Christopher Patrick.’ It’s a weird thing. Inspired by what Chris Hardwick did with Nerdist, writing under the pseudonym of Toasted Fiction granted me the freedom to establish this creative identity. This eventually branched out to the book, followed by the theatre company and podcast.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I find inspiration in a lot of different things, from the music I listen to and the books I’m reading to the little mundane everyday moments.
In 2015 I completed a 50 day/50 word/50 stories challenge where every story was inspired by something I had experienced from that day. It was really creative process and was a great way to engage more with the present, as hippy as that sounds.
Inspiration, though, comes in all shapes and sizes. With my play Fools On A Hill, it stemmed from my anger and frustration towards organised religion, particularly the extremities of Christianity and Catholicism and was created to shine a light on the often absurd and hypocritical nature of those embedded within it.
For the The Vultures, inspiration came from listening to an Elaine C Smith talk. With Ratins, it came from distracting myself on a flight and using the word vajazzles in a joke, whilst inspiration for The Pact culminated from reading Of Mice & Men and being a massive fan of The Walking Dead. It’s a varied thing for me, inspiration.
Where do I find motivation? I don’t know. I love telling stories and just want to tell as many as I can, as well as I can. I want to make people laugh, cry, escape and think. Storytelling is important, now more than ever and it’s one of the only things I’ve become good at. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m too far gone to stop now!
What writers do you have your eye on at the moment? Who would you love to work with if you had the chance?
Christ, this could be a really long list. I’ll try and keep it brief. Aaron Sorkin is one of my favourite playwrights. I’m a massive Stephen King fan and I also love Tom Perrotta – who replied to my fan letter once, it was awesome.
I would love to work with the likes of JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof or Steven Spielberg. I love Judd Apatow and Toby Whithouse, who tweeted me back once. Oh, and Armando Iaanuci. And I almost forgot Joss Whedon. I want to work with everyone!
I’d be remiss in mentioning that over the course of the first season of Toasted Fiction Theatre, I’ve worked with some tremendous new writers and some really really top acting talent. To work with any and all of them again would be fantastic.
What upcoming projects are you working on at the minute?
What advice would you give to those looking to break into a similar role?
Seriously though, the main advice I can give is never to wait for permission and or for the feeling of legitimacy as a creative – they may never come and you’ll have wasted a hell of a long time waiting when you could have been creating instead.
Be patient, work hard and be nice. Don’t take yourself too seriously and have fun. Be collaborative. Be open minded. And honestly? Have a bit of self awareness – it goes a long way.