Interview sponsored* by Protogena Chronicles Inc.
The Children’s Book Review | March 3, 2016
The Children’s Book Review: The setting for Protogenesis is so intricate and full of interesting details about Greece and its culture and history. Had you experienced Greece or Greek culture before writing your book?
Alysia Helming: Before beginning my writing journey on Protogenesis, I had only been to Greece once, and only for a few days. I had visited Athens and Mykonos with my family while we were on a ten-city Mediterranean cruise during July 2014.
I was completely unfamiliar with the culture in Greece and realized at that moment that I was taking a risk. It is common for many authors in the young adult fiction genre to not thoroughly research their settings, which can leave readers who know the culture and the place frustrated.
To avoid such risk, I tried to research on the Internet, but it was not enough. This is the reason that I’ve visited Athens ten times in the past 18 months and hired a local Cultural Editor, Denia Metaxa. Through my travels to Athens, I have met all kinds of people from all different types of circumstances, from drivers to super celebrities. This enriched the story, hence enabling the reader to grasp a ‘real’ sense of Athens.
I am also a supporter of the American Classical School in Athens, so I have enjoyed special research assistance from world famous thought leaders and archaeologists in excavations, archaeology, mythology and philosophy.
Your descriptions of the ancient Greek sites—such as the Temple of Poseidon—evoke such beauty and mystery. Have you visited these sites? And if so, what were your initial impressions?
All my trips to Greece have included Athens as my first and main destination and I have visited almost all the monuments in the greater historical region of Attica. I was impressed by the physical beauty and variation in the landscape, as well as the presence of so many ancient sites. Besides the physical beauty these sites hold, there is also a curious significance in relation to monuments and mythology and this caught my attention from my very first research trip to Greece. 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 the seaside of the Vouliagmeni area. This is almost exactly where I always stay when I visit Athens!
I wanted to share my real-life experience of my adventures in Greece with the readers and this was one of the reasons why I thought it would be a great idea to create the six short films which will be presented on the book’s website www.protogenesis.com in the near future. As part of an interactive map of Athens on protogenesis.com, the viewer will be able to follow Helene’s ‘footsteps’ through the main settings of the book as narrated by Greek Star, Kostas Martakis. These places include Metaxourgeio, Monastiraki Square, the Acropolis, Plaka, Ancient Agora, Lycabettus Hill, Kifisia, Palio Psychiko, Vouliagmeni, and the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio. We were granted special permits from the Ministry of Culture to film inside the Temple of Poseidon and Ancient Agora. This was the first time such permits were granted at Agora since the 60s!
You touch on Greece’s recent economic crisis and link it to the rise of crime syndicates and other underworld activity. Do you know if economic conditions remain dire in Greece? And will Greece’s current economic and/or political conditions continue to be featured in upcoming books in the series?
Through my frequent trips to Greece I have made many local Greek friends and I have witnessed, through their everyday lives, the financial difficulties they are experiencing.
Nevertheless, the hospitality, the traditions and perseverance of the people remains, and this has made me love Greece even more. Because of this, my passion is to bring this story to the world through the Protogena Chronicles book series. I hope to portray 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.
As I was an Economics major in college, this allowed me an interesting lens to better understand the scope of what is really going on with the crisis in Greece; however, the black-market organization known as the “Syndicate” in Protogenesis is a construct of fiction.
The reality, though, is that if governments let the people down and there is no other way to survive, then alternatives to government will arise. Interestingly, in this situation, these alternatives can be entirely legal or generally accepted by everyone, including the government. There are many examples of this throughout history.
In the case of the Sarantos family in my book Protogenesis, the Syndicate offers this alternative, serving as a modern day “Robin Hood” for the people of Greece. In reality, there are many organizations and families that are hard-working and legitimate, who save and trade more in cash because it is the only way to survive in the current crisis. While every country has the presence of some sort of mafia, I don’t feel that the mafia or organized crime runs the politics or economics of Greece.
As for the upcoming books in the series, yes, they do continue to feature Greece’s eminent economic and political conditions, which become even more crucial for the story plot…
Helene is a strong female character in a book with several intriguing female characters. Is she based on a real person or a fictional character?
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.
The bond between Helene and her mother is central to the story. Will Helene’s mother remain a prominent character throughout the series?
Yes, indeed! Helene’s mother is a prominent character throughout the whole book series. But other characters become prominent as well, because nothing is as it seems…
Nick and Ever are both compelling love interests for Helene. Nick is literally the boy next door: a very good person who seems trustworthy and dependable. Ever is the more mysterious, more attractive type, who may or may not be totally honest with Helene. And it appears that Helene is falling for Ever. Does Nick stand a chance?
Guys like Nick always stand a chance! In fact, Nick has his own set of faults, is seriously attractive in his own right, and is a self-professed rebel. As I said before, in this story, nothing is as it seems… and I am not a fan of predictability. There are six more books to find out whom she ends up with!
Helene loves to dance and the scenes in which she is dancing by herself seem so true to what I imagine a dancer feels when getting lost in the music and the moment. Did you write these scenes from the perspective of a dancer?
Yes, exactly! As I mentioned in one of the questions above, like Helene, I was also an aspiring ballerina during my teenage years. Along with writing, dancing has always been a lifetime passion for me. Writing these scenes from the perspective of a dancer came out very naturally.
Helene experiences many supernatural things—such as the sightings of ghosts at the historic Greek sites—and she tries to convince herself that these things aren’t real. Do you believe in the supernatural?
The ‘supernatural’ is really another word to describe anything unexplainable by the laws of nature, as we know them. Every year, our definition of science and the laws of nature changes as we learn more. Given this, I most definitely believe there are many things that are not yet explained by science, but will be in our future. I think Arthur Clarke said it well in his Third Law, which is also quoted in my book Protogenesis: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic…”
The Protogena Chronicles story offers a completely original understanding of ancient mythology and the supernatural 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”.
There are various symbols that turn up repeatedly in the story, such as the 12-pointed star and the wrist tattoo. Without giving too much away, can you explain the significance of these symbols and how you devised them?
Like all symbols, the ones in the book carry great significance, not only for the meaning and the concept of the plot, but also for the practical evolution and development of the story. Without saying too much, rest assured that every symbol in the book carries a significant role, so keep a careful eye for them as they come up in the story…!
Can you give us a preview of what to expect in the next installment in the Protogena series?
Sure! I have worked closely with my editing team to develop outlines for all six of the next books in the series and have written the majority of book two, which will be titled “First Cure”. There are many clues interspersed within Book one that are set up for Book two, so can only offer a few hints as I don’t want it to be a spoiler.
Once again set in modern day Athens, a disaster strikes. Helene and Ever must join forces to search on Gaea for the “cure” to this disaster, to not only save their loved ones, but all of mankind…
Written by Alysia Helming
Publisher’s Synopsis: A Terrible Tragedy…
One fateful day, life for California teenager Helene Crawford comes to a grinding halt. There was a fire. Her mother is “gone”. The police say she’s dead. But something’s not right…a maze of clues lead her to believe that her mom is still alive.
The Answers lie in Greece…
The Greek Mafia may be involved. She has a crazy godfather in Athens she never knew she had. Vivid dreams of ancient gods consume her sleep. Helene must go to Greece. The answers to her quest to find her mom lie there.
A New Life, New Love…
Suddenly uprooted to move across the world, Helene must survive a new school and navigate the highs and lows of new love. All of this in Greece, a country embroiled in economic crisis where the kids literally speak “Greek”.
A Portal to Another World…
Through this daring journey, Helene will pass through the gates of her past to another world where the roots of modern civilization and the gods of her favorite ancient myths converge – in order to find her mom, find herself, find true love, become empowered and transform to fulfill her destiny.
Who knows? Maybe the gods and goddesses are on her side… or maybe not. After all, nothing is as it seems.
Original Song created for Protogenesis and performed by Greek Music Artist, Kostas Martakis, in collaboration with Panik Entertainment Group.
Praise: “Combining a modern-day love triangle with science fiction concepts such as time travel, parallel universes and alternate realities, Protogenesis is sure to be a young adult best seller.” —The Children’s Book Review
Young Adult | Publisher: Cool Planet Publishing | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0-9984811-1-1
About The Author
Alysia Helming, with a strong desire and passion for writing, began to write her own short stories and plays for school in third grade.
In 2000, Alysia coauthored a pilot for a TV series, “One Degree of Separation” and in 2006, she coordinated the local premiere of the feature-length movie “The Great Warming” starring Alanis MorisseLe and Keanu Reeves, assisting with the nationwide release of the film. As a former student in Screenwriting at University of California, Los Angeles, Alysia wrote a full length feature film screenplay, “The Green Warrior”, in 2009-2010.
Protogenesis is Alysia’s first novel, which is the first in the seven novel series, The Protogena ChroniclesTM. She is enjoying her writing journey, traveling regularly between her home in the Oakland Hills nestled above the San Francisco Bay, and Athens Greece, the primary setting for her novel series.
From 2015, she visited Athens, Greece ten times. Each trip, she met many friends and collaborators that helped her to thoroughly understand the rich culture, mythology and unique challenges that the Greek people face through the current crisis there. As a result, her mission is to help Greece by offering a message of hope and to drive tourism there through her book series. Her ‘journey behind the writing’ is just as interesting as the novel series!
When she isn’t writing, Alysia is considered a ‘Clean Energy Guru’. She’s the Executive Vice President of Green Reach, Inc., a diversified renewable energy company, which manages the affairs of the Helming Family Trust. She is also a Board Director and a majority investor/owner in Pristine Sun, a major solar independent power producer in the United States. Alysia enjoys spending time with her young son and husband, as well as activities such as hiking, swimming, mountain climbing, ballet, cooking and traveling.
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