Full length interview with Alysia Helming – Novelist
Celebrity magazine, January 2017
Journalist: Zoe Micha
Tell us a little about your novel, Protogenesis.
One American girl, one love triangle, one loss, one quest, bridging modern Greece with ancient mythology, all with a fresh and exciting sci-fi twist…
The story is completely unique, never been done before. It offers a completely new understanding of ancient mythology as we know it, as well as an alternative view of how modern civilization may have originated. Hence, the title “Protogenesis” means “Before the Beginning”.
This is a story of the perseverance & metamorphosis of the human spirit, as told through the eyes of a 17-year-old American girl, Helene, as it explores and interweaves political, cultural and economic issues in modern and ancient Greece, which she discovers through a quest in Athens to find her mother and through a dramatic love triangle where she finds herself in embroiled in the highs and lows of young love with two Greek boys. Throughout the book, Helene follows a series of clues, which she slowly fits together like a puzzle as she travels from the world we know through a portal to another place where she makes a startling discovery. The gods of the myths are alive and well, but exist in another reality.
What emotions would you like your readers to experience and what do you want them to feel after reading it?
By the end of the book, the reader will experience a sense of euphoria as the final clues unlock the mystery of it all and Helene discovers the beautiful, powerful woman that she has become, and is meant to be.
Did you integrate any of your own personal experiences into the story when creating the main character Helene?
Yes! So much of Helene is me…how I react, engage with others. Also like Helene, when I was in high school, I was an aspiring ballerina who experienced the same injury which ended my career in ballet. When you’ve devoted your life to a craft and become one of the best in your local region, it’s a major life change and disappointment on many levels to suddenly lose it all. It changes you. When one door closes, another opens. What once seemed a tragedy or a failure can be rediscovered as a building block to a future success. It’s all about perspective and perseverance. Helene’s tenacity and ability to push through multiple obstacles in the book series is a testament to my own life journey. Not just as a young aspiring ballerina, but also as a writer. It takes incredible determination and focus to not only write one book, but to also create and promote an entire series of seven books.
What characteristics of Greece captivated you to the point to use it as a main source of inspiration?
My original inspiration was ancient Greek mythology, for which I developed a short story with my 17-year-old niece. You can read all about this through my blogs on www.alysiahelming.com/reallifestory . When I researched other young adult books about mythology, I realized that none of them were set in modern Greece. As Greece is the origination of Greek mythology and also the birthplace of many concepts in mathematics, science and also the birthplace of democracy, it seems the perfect place to set the story. Also, the economic issues and status of Greece is a very hot topic that we see in the news a lot in the United States.
But I had been to Greece once, and only for a few days. I tried to research on the Internet, but it’s not enough. The authors of many books in the young adult genre do not thoroughly research their settings, which can leave readers who know the culture and the place frustrated. This is why I’ve visited Athens nine times in the past 18 months and hired a local Cultural Editor (Denia Metaxa). Through this experience, I have met all kinds of people from all different types of circumstances, from drivers to super celebrities. It really enriches the story and gives the reader a real sense of Athens.
What was it that inspired you about Kostas Martakis, in order for you to base the male protagonist character on him?
First of all, there are many impressive things about Kostas Martakis that have inspired me, such as his music, beautiful energy and enthusiasm for the book series. I am honored to work with him and to call him my friend.
But…the truth is that I discovered him in a very random way. The whole story is described through a series of blogs on my website, however, it started as a Google search for the physical characteristics of one of the main male characters in the book, Ever Sarantos. I performed a similar search for all of the characters before I started writing and put their pictures up on the wall. In most cases, I did not know anything else about these people in real life (unless they were well known in the US).
Upon my first research trip to Athens, we were driving from the airport when I was shocked to see Kostas up on a banner. During this trip, I discovered that similar to Ever Sarantos, Kostas was Greek, lives in Athens, his mother was from Australia and that he was a singer. I also ran into him by chance twice that trip, which I took as a sign that this book was meant to be. I take ‘signs’ like this very seriously, as they have led to my previous success in business as well.
Give us a taste of what we can expect of the six short films with Kostas Martaki in the leading role.
The six short films will be presented on the book’s website www.protogenesis.com, as part of an interactive map of Athens where the viewer can follow Helene’s ‘footsteps’ through the main settings of the book as narrated by Kostas Martakis. These places include Metaxourgeio, Monastraki Square, the Acropolis, Plaka, Ancient Agora, Lycabettus Hill, Kifisia, Palio Psychio, Vouligameni, and the Temple of Poseidon. We were granted special permits from the Ministry of Culture to film inside the Temple of Poseidon and Ancient Agora. This was the first such permits at Agora since the sixties, so it’s a big deal.
As the films were produced in collaboration with Panik Entertainment Group and Filmskin, we utilized the talents of well-known Greek Director Vassilis Antoniadis, as well as a top cinematographer and scriptwriter. I originally asked for a series of videos and received gorgeously crafted short movies with sweeping scenery and film quality.
As the Author of the book series, I also acted beside Kostas as we brought a few scenes from the book to life onscreen. This was a lot of fun and a great way for Kostas to experience the character in real-time that was inspired by him. Pretty awesome.
The song “Forever and Tonight” was written specifically for your novel. Did you ever imagine that something like this would happen? What do you think of the fact that Kostas Martakis’ and Panik Records initiated such a project?
Not in a million years! Honestly, when I first met Kostas, the most that I expected was that it would be fun to meet him so I could thank him for being my inspiration. That was it. But the meeting went so well. He really embraced the story and the key concepts behind it. What was supposed to be a thirty-minute meeting became several hours because we were all so excited about it.
Of course, during this meeting, I also met Denia Metaxa and Lia Papadopoulou, who worked with Kostas at Panik. Denia later became the Cultural Editor for the book and Lia’s dog, Xampos, makes an appearance in the book as Ever’s dog. He also starred in one of the short movies. Over time, I have come to know most everyone at Panik and feel as if they are like a family to me.
I can’t speak for Kostas, but from what I understand, Kostas was happy about my basing a character on him for this story that he created the song for the book and for me as a ‘gift’. He read some of my poems and selected one called “The Chameleon” that he liked. Through Panik, he brought together some amazing talents in Greek music such as lyricist Vicky Gerothodorou and composer Marios Psimopoulos, who used some of the words from my poem to write, compose and perform this amazing song, “Forever and Tonight”.
When I heard the song for the first time, it fit perfectly in a chapter where at the school dance, Ever sings a special song for Helene, one that he wrote just for her. It felt very natural to integrate the lyrics into the actual text of the book. And, as the music is Greek, but performed in English and composed with a modern feel, it is almost as if we are bringing the magic of Greece to the world through this music. It’s the perfect theme song for the Hollywood movies that will come in the future. We’re calling it “Greek Soul” music.
What inspires you in everyday life?
I am a passionate, purpose-driven person inspired by goodness and love. I am inspired by the inner growth that comes from the journey that leads to achieving a purpose. Life or world changing stuff. For example, my husband and I have started successful companies together in utility scale solar and wind power. There, I was inspired by my love for the outdoors, beautiful scenery and a cleaner, more healthy environment for the planet and my family. I have a young son whom I hope can enjoy the earth during his life as I have.
Of course, right now, my passion is bringing my story to the world through the “Protogena Chronicles” book series, which also has a message about the environment within it. With the help of my team of editors, we have been busy outlining all seven books. Through this series, I hope to bring the love, hospitality and warmth of the Greek people that I have come to know to everyone. Perhaps we can increase tourism to stimulate the economy and to help in some way.
When you’re in Greece, what do you like to do and what places do you always look forward to visiting?
All my trips to Greece have been to Athens, although I have taken some multi-day trips to the surrounding Saronic islands, Mykonos and islands in the Ionian Sea, such as Lefkada and Ithaca. Within Athens, I almost always stay in Vouliagmeni, with a favorite writing spot at the Margi. I have many friends who live in all areas of Athens, so I enjoy visiting with them and have seen almost all monuments. I am a supporter of the American Classical School, so have enjoyed special research assistance from them in excavations, archaeology and philosophy.
One interesting thing is that I seem attracted to Vouliagmeni. Besides it’s physical beauty, this location is curious and significant in relation to monuments and mythology. If you take a map and trace the lines between the Temple of Poseidon, the Parthenon and the Temple of Aphaea (on the island of Aegina), a triangle is created. Almost directly in the center of this triangle is Vouliagmeni, which is likely the Temple of Apollo Zoster at Astir Beach. This is almost exactly where I always stay when I visit Athens!
The book will be released in Greek in Autumn. English e-book is now available for sale on Amazon, Kindle and soon it will also be released on Apple iBook and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, as well as an audio book!
Helming’s mission is to help Greece by offering a message of hope and to drive tourism there through her book series.
Novelist Alysia Helming and Greek music star Kostas Martakis