Book Review: Surviving the Fall by William R. Potter

The independent book world is not unlike that of the independent film. Both are comprised of storytellers that choose passion over fame and art over wealth. Not to say that the two can’t ever go together hand-in-hand, but it’s a long road that leads to a final destination often unreached. Independent authors aren’t driven by promise of fortune, and their carefully-woven stories often consist of bold plot line decisions made without fear of a major publishing house wielding the creative axe. Surviving the Fall is one of those stories.

James Goodall is an ordinary man in every sense—superfluous and perfectly relatable. His Achilles heel is a giant heart pinned to his sleeve that constantly drives him to want to help the unfortunate. His behavior, as result of his kind soul, has driven a wedge between him and his now estranged wife. On a cold winter day in December, his rescuer complex is taken to the next level after he meets a fifteen year old girl named Ashley that was thrown violently from a speeding car. She is reluctant at first to trust him, but with nowhere else to turn in a brand new city, she reaches out to him for help—his dream come true.

Unbeknownst to James, Ashley comes with a lot of baggage that he is unprepared to face. Her cruel life has consisted only of prostitution, and a loveless mother that has left her emotionally scarred beyond repair. James takes her in and provides her with food, clothing, and shelter, though she remains guarded and unwilling to completely trust him. Over time, the two form a rather unorthodox friendship that includes its own special set of complications. James has a holy roller sister that continually makes him feel guilty about their relationship, and Ashley has a secret from her past that eventually comes back to haunt them both. She carries one last tie to the underbelly of society that she’d left behind and has endangered both of their lives.

Without beating around the bush, Surviving the Fall is a well-written tale by a clearly talented author. William R. Potter carefully walks the tightrope of moral turpitude, as the adult male protagonist struggles with the temptation of his Lolita-esque friend. I am far from a prude, but at times I actually became quite uncomfortable, and turned the pages nervously. It was more than hope—I needed James to make the right decision, which is a testament to just how real and engrossing Potter was able to make the characters and story.

In the end, however, this book isn’t about the occasionally awkward moments between a man and a teenage girl. It’s about their friendship, which never feels unbelievable at any point. James sees Ashley as a jigsaw puzzle, and yearns to help her put all the pieces back together again. It’s a noble gesture that even someone without a rescuer complex can identify with. The way that Potter tells the story from two unique perspectives on a collision course with each other kept me glued to the book way past my bedtime.

If I had but one complaint about this book, it’s that the ending left me feeling unsatisfied. Not because Potter failed to wrap it up convincingly, but because I wasn’t quite ready to leave the world he’d created. I wondered if there had been an opportunity for a final chapter that would took place three years later, after the events of the book had played out, and explore what the lives of the two protagonists may have been like at that point in their lives. Regardless, it was an enjoyable read that went by all too quickly.

Q & A with Surviving the Fall author, William R. Potter

[DAVID K. HULEGAARD]: Readers are always fascinated about where a writer gets their ideas from. How did Surviving the Fall come to be?

[WILLIAM R. POTTER]: Years before I wrote STF, I saw a TV news story which featured an area in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver where the child sex trade existed. I had heard of this area by its reputation; however I had no idea just how young some of the girls working there were. The area was known, not just in Canada, but worldwide as a place to go and purchase sex from children eleven years old or younger. I began to think about how a child could end up in such a horrible situation and how they might escape this nightmare life. A few thoughts became an idea and a plot outline was born.

[DKH]: Did you base the story’s protagonist, James Goodall, off of a real person or event?

[WRP]: James is a lonely man about to be divorced from his wife. I drew on my own experiences from my marriage break up to get James’ emotions correct. At that low point it is easy to attach yourself to anyone who can help take your sadness away.

[DKH]: In the book, James is challenged to make a moral decision between right and wrong as it relates to his relationship with a teenage girl. Tackling such a controversial topic had to have been tricky. Did you find it difficult to explore those moments with James?

[WRP]: Yes, it was difficult researching and writing about this topic. I don’t think anyone wants to believe that this type of abuse exists, especially so close to home. I put myself in my protagonist’s shoes and asked myself what would I do? Give into temptation and loneliness or do the right thing? I hope any guy reading the book might ask himself the same questions. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

[DKH]: At various points in the story, the reader is treated to some of James’s deep thoughts about the holiday season, or his immediate surroundings, that provide him with character, but aren’t necessarily tied to the plot. Are there any characteristics of yours that slipped into the narrative?

[WRP]: I’m not a huge fan of the holidays at the best of times and when you’re struggling with the emotional rollercoaster of a divorce, Christmas can be very difficult. All those flooding memories each tied to “First Christmas Together” type nostalgia. It wasn’t intentional but these thoughts certainly made their way into the narrative.

[DKH]: The setting in any book plays a significant character as well. Talk a little bit about the real life areas from your book and why you selected to include them.

[WRP]: I’ve always enjoyed books written by writers who incorporate their own neighborhood. If used correctly the author’s familiarity with the setting comes through so the reader feels right there in the scene. As I mentioned above, child prostitution exists in my city so there was no need to use an exotic locale or to create a fictional one.

[DKH]: Sentimentally, what does Surviving the Fall represent to you?

[WRP]: I believe it is the best of my earlier work (written in 2007). I recognized right away that STF touches on a controversial subject and I’m proud of myself for not toning it down. One reviewer mentioned she thought it was creepy and yet she still published a favorable review.

[DKH]: Several bodies of work now under your belt, what are the most important lessons that experience has taught you?

[WRP]: I realize tackling an issue or genre which challenges me is much more important than choosing a theme just to make sales. Publishing a young adult fantasy may tear up the Amazon best seller lists but writing something I can get passionate about is much more satisfying, at least for now.

[DKH]: What is coming up next for William R. Potter?

[WRP]: I have a full length novel called Falling Down the Hole and a horror novella called Fright Factory at the editing stage. Falling is about a man who loses his sight in a freak kitchen accident and then struggles to live as a sightless father and husband. Fright is about a forty-something couple who embark on a getaway weekend only to become the lead characters in an insane director’s “Snuff Film.”

Buy Surviving the Fall on: Kindle and Smashwords

Visit William R. Potter on: The Independent Author Network

One thoughtful comment

  1. Hi David,

    I’m glad you enjoyed STF. You’ve done an amazing job reviewing the book…getting to the point I was trying to make when I first published it.

    Thank you for posting this to your blog and to Amazon.


    William R. Potter

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