Denise Williams-Klotz: Author and Iowa State staffer on her second novel

Denise Williams-Klotz works as the assistant director of multicultural student affairs at Iowa State.

Courtesy of Denise Williams-Klotz

Denise Williams-Klotz works as the assistant director of multicultural student affairs at Iowa State.

Sierra Hoeger, Sierra.

Often seen at Dogeared Books, signing copies of her novels, Denise Williams-Klotz gained inspiration for her second novel, “Fastest Way to Fall,” by recounting a time she felt strong. 

For Williams-Klotz, assistant director of multicultural student affairs, it was on the elliptical, racing against the person on the machine adjacent to her without their knowledge. 

“But I knew we were racing, and I thought about that moment of finishing that workout and feeling like I could take on the world,” Williams-Klotz said. “That moment of strength and that instance of physical strength, but just feeling like I could do anything, and what it might be like to write a love story that occurred at that moment. That moment when we felt so strong, we could do anything. Lock eyes with our soulmate across the room.”

In the novel, main characters Britta, who has the opportunity to write a piece on a new fitness app, and Wes, CEO of said app, unexpectedly fall in love. Questions of credibility arise, forcing them to reconsider a relationship. 

Topics such as weight, body positivity and finding strength in all facets of life, not just physically, are all themes Williams-Klotz integrates into the novel through the characters. 

“For me, the message with this book is something that I see embraced in so many different ways, both with students and on campus, just in the media in general, which is fitness belongs to everybody,” Williams-Klotz said. “Exercise belongs to everybody. In this book, particularly, it’s about a fat woman who is on this fitness journey and knowing that that doesn’t mean she wants to lose weight, she wants to change herself, or she isn’t happy with herself, but with that exercise, fitness, trying new things with nutrition, all of that can belong to everybody and it doesn’t have to tie to what, for some people, is a very toxic and kind of daunting history with people thinking they need to change themselves or they don’t like themselves.”

For Wes, his journey is about the emotional and mental strength most men often don’t show. 

“His journey is one on finding the strength to ask for help. And to be vulnerable, to trust someone,” Williams-Klotz said. 

Published in early November 2021, Williams-Klotz is still feeling the ripple effect of responses from the release of her first novel, “How to Fail at Flirting,” which was published in December 2020. 

In particular, it meant a lot to Williams-Klotz that she was able to “merge” different aspects of her life such as being a mentor to students and being an author. 

“It was really cool, on campus, when students, or fellow faculty and staff would tell me they read my book, or hear from different people,” Williams-Klotz said. “Or with students, to talk about writing and hear from students I already knew and students I didn’t know, that they want to be writers and that they want to talk about the process on how to publish a book.”

For those who are interested in becoming an author or enjoy writing and are ready to take it to the next level, Williams-Klotz has one key piece of advice: keep writing.

“The thing with publishing and with writing in general is it’s iterative,” Williams-Klotz said. “It gets better and better and better, and so many people stop because the first draft isn’t perfect. And I’ve struggled with that, even being published already and with my Ph.D., I’ve been writing a long time. So I guess that the piece of advice I would give for folks who are writing is the only thing a first draft has to do is exist. The only thing a first draft has to be is on the page.”

Williams-Klotz emphasized the importance of utilizing on-campus resources such as the Writing and Media Center as they are not only there to help with academic writing efforts, but personal pursuits as well. 

While the on-campus impact of her novels is awe-inspiring, it’s the authenticity of readers that makes the publishing process oh so worth it. Representations of those who were once in toxic relationships, are survivors of toxic relationships and have suffered from abuse trauma are seen within her first novel. 

“The book got a lot of press, which is really amazing, and it’s up for some awards and some cool accolades, [but] honestly, for me, the most meaningful response to the first book is hearing from readers, people I know and people I don’t know, that it was meaningful for them to see themself on the page,” Williams-Klotz said. “Particularly the folks who were themselves survivors, victims of violence, been in a toxic relationship, workplace harassment, all of those things, to see themself on a page, finding a love story and still being authentic, still dealing with the aftermath of trauma, or still healing, or still having some walls up, but also having a love story. And I save all of those messages because it’s just so incredible to me, that people who have trusted me with their stories. But it’s also indicative [of] how many people, particularly [with] the first book, are dealing with, or living with, or dealing with the aftermath of violent relationships. That has been very powerful, but hearing from people has been, for me, the most incredible response to the book.”

For “The Fastest Way to Fall,” Williams-Klotz is hearing from readers who are yet again finding representation of themselves within the pages of her novels. 

“Hearing what it’s meant for people to read about somebody who is positive with themselves and engaging [in] exercise and navigating these choppy waters of feeling good about your body, and that has just been incredible,” Williams-Klotz said. “I love that, and I love that in some small way, my words [are] a part of something like that.”