Many of us have a novel in us, but few manage to actually bring the intricate worlds that reign in our imagination onto the printed page. Alysia Helming, a former Chief Financial Officer of a major US solar and wind power company, figured out the entire storyline for the seven-book “Protogena Chronicles” in around two weeks, and she has already completed the first novel. It all began when Helming, who has studied writing at UCLA, was approached by her 17 year-old niece, who had a seductive idea for a fiction novel themed on Greek mythology, a topic they are both passionate about. The two brainstormed together, but when her niece’s studies put her writing dreams on hold, Helming proceeded to add many of her own ideas and had soon mapped out a whole other plot: “My niece’s take on Greek mythology is more romantic, mine is a completely new twist on it, it’s more of a science fiction and technology angle, almost like demystifying mythology. It’s very different, nothing like it has really been done like it before,” she says.
There is a great deal of time travel in Protogenesis (a word created by the author to mean “before the beginning”). Set in the present day, the story relates to the character of Helene, an 17 year-old Greek-American whose mother dies in a fire, and consequently catapults the teenager to a life with her highly eccentric Greek godfather, in a weird house in the Athenian neighborhood of Metaxourgeio.
Once in Athens, the girl unearths clues indicating that her mother has not in fact died, and thereupon begins her quest to discover what has happened. “It’s a bit like The Da Vinci Code, with all these clues leading to the next thing,” Helming says. The girl is wooed by two very different young men, one poor and scrappy and the other rich and refined, each representing, according to Helming, a face of Greece today: “You have the very rich, and you have the really poor, and the middle class is disappearing,” she says. “I’m exploring that divide, yet I don’t write about the crisis itself.”
The author aspires for her book to inspire readers to visit Greece, just as Dan Brown’s bestseller did for Rome. “The first and second books are set in Athens; from there we are going to Crete, Santorini, on the top of Mt Olympus and so on. In the story, there’s modern Greece, and then we go through this portal where the Gods exist, and that world mirrors the struggles of the modern people here, so the tone is very similar between the two.”
Helming balanced out her fascination with Greek history with plenty of visits to Athens during 2015-16 while researching her book, discovering a great deal about Greek society and culture, and making many new friends along the way. She credits her strategic mind for her ability to plot out the seven chronicles to come, although she also received help from her UCLA writing professor, Kelly Fullerton, who has a solid TV screenwriting background. Having a California background and working with a Hollywood scriptwriter, it’s only natural that an exciting story like “Protogenesis” should also soon be up for grabs by Hollywood producers to be turned into a movie. “Most of my influence comes from Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Dune as well as sci-fi books and TV shows… and indeed, Protogenesis is very cinematic. We’re in talks right now with big publishers in the US as well as Hollywood agents, but it all takes time.”
Protogenesis e-book will be released as of December 13. The print version is scheduled for March 2017.