Interview with Alysia Helming – Novelist
Esquire magazine, February 2017
Journalist: Christina Farazi
WHAT DOES AN AMERICAN WOMAN HAVE TO DO WITH THE GREEK CRISIS, AND ANCIENT GREEK MYTHOLOGY?
In "Protogenesis", the first novel in the young adult book series "Protogena Chronicles", the author describes an American teenage story which takes place in today's Athens, while intertwining with Greece in the ancient past.
The truth is that most of us have a novel in our mind, but only a few of us have the ability and courage to transfer their imaginary worlds onto a piece of paper. Alysia Helming is one of those few people. With a former successful career as a Finance Officer for several companies in the U.S., including two which she co-founded in renewable energy, she managed to plot out in her mind the whole story of all seven books of the young adult literature series of the “Protogena Chronicles” and has now already completed the first novel – which signifies her first official published literature work, titled “Protogenesis.”
“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.”
This is how she described it in her interview with Esquire explaining how it takes place in one of Athens’ shadier districts, Metaxourgeio, where the heroes travel back and forth through the civilizations, from modern Greece to the ancient Greek mythological civilizations.
Writing was always a part of her DNA. “It is as if I can create my own reality and retreat there whenever I want. The ultimate form of creative expression. The ultimate escape.”
This is how she described the feeling of writing to us, so in a way, she was destined to become a novelist, but she needed the life experiences and some training to make this dream a reality.
It all started for Helming in 2009, when she finally had the opportunity to return to her lifetime writing passion when she wrote her first full length screenplay as part of UCLA’s extension program; and then in 2010, she attended screenwriting classes as part of the professional program in screenwriting where she met some of the Hollywood professionals that are advisers for her for this book project. But it wasn’t until 2014, when she finally decided that is was time to write a novel. Her teenage niece proposed an idea for a book about Greek mythology. Ultimately, she ended up writing her own story separate from her niece’s, but this gave rise to the ideas that later became “Protogenesis”, the first book in the seven-book series called the “Protogena Chronicles”.
“When I finally decided to put my niece’s idea into paper and write a story inspired by Greek mythology, I realized how unfamiliar I was with the culture in Greece. I tried to research on the Internet, but it was not enough. The authors of many books in the young adult fiction genre do not thoroughly research their settings, which can leave readers who know the culture and the place frustrated.”
For this reason, Helming visited Athens nine times in the past 18 months and hired a local Cultural Editor (Denia Metaxa), to really enrich the story and earn herself the knowledge to give the reader a ‘real’ sense of Athens. Through her research travels to Athens, she met all kinds of people from all different types of circumstances, from drivers to super celebrities.
But her first trip was the one that held a big surprise: for her to discover the real identity of the man whose image had been the inspiration of the primary male character of “Protogenesis”, Ever Sarantos. In the story Ever Sarantos, is the sole heir to one of Greece’s wealthiest families. He lives a life of privilege, but faces his own unique challenges, constantly worried for his safety and the pressure of learning all of the complexity of his father’s multi-national empire to one day assume control, but he isn’t sure he wants, nor is able to handle that kind of responsibility. This Ever Sarantos, is none other than our own Greek star Kostas Martakis.
But how did she ‘discover’ Kostas Martakis?
“It all started as a random Google search where I searched for physical characteristics for Ever Sarantos. The search was as simple as 'brown hair, blue eye male actor', and then after scanning about 50 photos, I came across one of his photos. I did not recognize his name, but something about the look on his face said it all for me. It felt as if he were staring at me through the photo like he knew me well. There was something deep and complicated in his eyes, like he was in on some inside joke with me. He was Ever.”
She actually discovered Ever’s true identity was the one of Greek music star Kostas Martakis through a banner on a street of Athens while she was driving with her sister from the airport. She was shocked with this discovery and decided to seek his contact and meet him in person.
When she finally met him, she discovered that just like Ever Sarantos, Kostas was Greek, lived in Athens, his mother was from Australia and he was also a singer. “This coincidence, among many others, was sign for me that this book was meant to be!”
Ever since, Kostas Martakis has not only been the inspiration for Ever Sarantos. He’s been an active advisor and friend for Alysia Helming and the project, created the theme song “Forever and Tonight” for "Protogenesis" and starred in a series of short movies filmed in Athens that will be featured on www.protogenesis.com soon!
THE HERO OF THE BOOK
"I was impressed with the way she reached out to meet me as soon as she realized I am an actual person, a Greek singer who lives somewhere in Athens. She happened to come across a banner on the street with my picture on it advertising one of the venues I performed at during that time and then decided to contact my record label, Panik Records, so as to arrange and meet me in person. It is really touching and a great honor to be the inspiration for the creation of something new."
Six short films about “Protogenesis” with Kostas Martakis in the leading role will soon be available for you to watch on the book’s website www.protogenesis.com.
E-book edition of the book is now available for sale on Amazon, while hard cover and paperback print books will also be available in late January.