Pulp Media had the chance to interview Bernard Gallate, author of The Origin of Me about how his delightful coming-of-age story came to be.
The Origin of Me is the Sydney-set story of Lincoln Locke who discovers a lump that grows near his behind while also coping with his parents’ divorce and being forced to enrol in a new school. As he tries to uncover the answers to his strange anomaly, he finds a memoir of a man who seems to have gone through the same strange circumstances. Lincoln uses the memoir as an aid to deal with his own problems which include trying to get out of the swim team, making new friends, dealing with the death of his grandfather, and living the life of a kid with divorced parents.
You can check out the book review here.
What was your inspiration for The Origin of Me?
The Origin of Me was inspired by the residual shame I still felt around my sexuality as an adult that had first manifested at the onset of my teen years. At thirteen, I’d witness a stunning production of Steven Berkoff’s stage adaptation of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. It’s the story of young salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking one morning to discover that overnight he’s transformed into an insect. The story resonated deeply with the dread I felt about my burgeoning queerness. Sixteen years later I played the role in a student production. When it came to writing my first novel, the evolution of a grotesque physical anomaly seemed the perfect metaphor to cover a variety of things any reader might feel ashamed of.
Who was your favourite character?
The Origin of Me has dual narratives – contemporary and nineteenth century, so I’m going to name two. My favourite contemporary character is the old hermit, Bert McGill. He was definitely the most satisfying and fun character to write, and his dialogue came naturally because he’s a composite of three people I’ve met in real life. Each of them spoke in the style of Bert’s rambling monologues, which at first seem senseless, but are actually disordered chronicles of significant moments in his life.
My nineteenth century favourite is Esther Hunnicutt. She was also a joy to write because she rebels against the social mores of the age to the point of relinquishing her own privileged status.
What is your writing process?
I usually commence writing very early in the morning, and in the early stages of each section work in longhand. For some reason it opens the flow of imagination. Allowing my first thoughts to remain on the page discourages premature editing, which in a sense, validates them. Letting them have their time on the page, makes it easier to cut or change them later without the agony of excessive analysis. Trying to perfect something before it’s taken any sort of shape is too tempting when you’re on the computer. It’s like decorating a pavlova before putting it in the oven.
How did The Origin of Me change from initial idea to final product?
The Origin of Me was initially conceived as a children’s picture book with the title D-N-A Spells Dan! It was built on the same idea of a protagonist developing a genetic anomaly, but for a much younger audience. In the process of writing a synopsis, it evolved into a semi-graphic novel titled Missing Lincoln – a pun on its eponymous teenage hero, Lincoln Locke. In the later stages of writing, I changed the name to The Origin of Me, dropped the idea of illustrations because they would’ve taken me another three years, and reduced the page count from 800 to 376.
What would you find if you had discovered the golden egg?
I did discover a golden egg. My dear friend Martha gave me a battery-operated mechanical tin chicken that she’d diligently sourced in Singapore. She’d concealed tiny scrolls bearing words of encouragement to persevere with my novel inside the eggs. It was so precious. Unconditional love and support are always gold.
What is your The Origin of Me playlist?
The story was originally set in 2009 and I’d imagined songs from Linkin Park featuring on Lincoln Locke’s internal soundtrack. I listened to Numb and In the End to get me into Lincoln’s head when I wrote the early chapters. So when the lead singer Chester Bennington died in 2017 I was pretty devastated because I’d been working on the book for about 9 years and had connected my character’s angst to Chester’s plaintive cries.
The other songs on my playlist are also from the ‘noughties’ because that’s the theme for the school dance. All of them at some stage appeared in the manuscript for The Origin of Me. A few of them made it to the final edit!
Burn – Usher
Don’t Cha – The Pussy Cat Dolls ft. Busta Rhymes
Get the Party Started – Pink
Don’t Hold Back – The Potbelleez
Numb – Linkin Park
In the End – Linkin Park
My People – The Presets
I Kissed a Girl – Katy Perry
Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) – Beyoncé
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – Daft Punk
The Time (Dirty Bit) – The Black Eyed Peas
The Origin of Me is available in bookstores everywhere!