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Minnesota author talks about her newly released book and her inspiration behind it

Amy Suiter Clarke’s new book highlights the dangerous side of close-knit religious communities, taking place in Minnesota.
Image by Graphic by Mary Ellen Ritter
This is the next big novel for the Minnesota author.

Minnesota-native Amy Suiter Clarke is set to release her newest book, “Lay Your Body Down,” on June 27. 

The thriller follows Delilah Walker, a young woman struggling to find her way in life, as she works to uncover the truth about who killed her ex-boyfriend, Lars. After returning to her hometown of Bower, Minnesota, Delilah must confront her religious trauma, her family, Lars’ widow and Pastor Rick Franklin.

Clarke’s debut novel “Girl, 11,” was called, “an adroit exploration of the ethical quandaries of true-crime storytelling” by the New York Times Book reviewer, Sarah Weinman. However, “Lay Your Body Down” is based closer to home.

“‘Lay Your Body Down,’ while it’s definitely fiction, contains a lot more of my personal experience growing up in a really conservative church and, kind of, the effects of that on people and their lives long-term,” Clarke said. “I don’t have the trauma, the very specific traumas that Delilah has about her assault.”

Delilah’s outlook on life is very similar to her own as a mid-20-year-old, said Clarke, who just like her character, comes from a very religious background.

 “I feel a lot of empathy for Delilah’s, just, anger at everything,” Clarke said. “Her just being like, ‘I wasn’t taught how to make a life because I was only taught how to be a wife.’” 

The idea of the perfect wife is consistent throughout “Lay Your Body Down.” In the book there are passages from a blog written by Lars’ widow, Eve, when she was a young girl, stating “We each have it within us to be a Noble Wife.”

Clarke’s familiarity with Minnesota culture is apparent in the book and, at one point, Delilah reacts to the very midwestern dishes at an after-church potluck. 

“As I walk down the line with my plate, I see Angela Culpepper’s caramel rolls, Celia Brown’s taco hotdish, Barb Smith’s loaded potato skins, and Jessie Nichol’s seven-layer salad, which for some terrible reason has both mayonnaise and marshmallows in it,” Clarke writes. 

The cultural inserts were not intentional, and instead came naturally.

“I just feel like growing up in a place gives you a perspective on that place like nothing else can,” Clarke said. 

Since living in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Clarke has studied theater in the Twin Cities, earned her master’s degree in writing in London and currently lives in Melbourne, Australia. 

“Even though I’ve lived in Melbourne for almost a decade I still feel the most comfortable writing about where I’m from,” Clarke said. 

Even when writing about home, the process has not always been smooth.

“‘For Girl, 11’ and ‘Lay Your Body Down’ it has involved completely rewriting the book after basically finishing or almost finishing, which I don’t recommend,” Clarke said. “I always worry that the idea I’m working on is going to be my last idea ever.”  

Currently working on her third novel,  Clarke said for her story ideas usually start with a “what if” question. 

With a 4.03 out of 5 stars on GoodReads just before the book’s publication, “Lay Your Body Down” has already received glowing reviews.

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