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Mace & Crown | April 26, 2017

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38th Literary Festival Hosts Author Manuel Muñoz

By Jacob Hall
Staff Writer

Old Dominion University welcomed author Manuel Muñoz to The Chandler Recital Hall for the 38th Annual Literary Festival. Muñoz, author of his latest novel “What You See In the Dark,” was showcased as well as biographical insights as they relate to his stories.

Muñoz took to the podium with a smile.

“Bear with me please. This is for my Mom,” he said, before snapping a picture of the audience.

Despite his big smile and playful attitude, his writing contains a much darker tone. For the audience, the comparison between Muñoz and his writing was stark.

Muñoz told the crowd his latest novel, “What You See In The Dark,” was a noir inspired by a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of director Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” and the events of the town it was filmed in. Prior to this, Muñoz released two collections of short stories, “Zigzagger” and “The Faith Healer Of Olive Avenue.” In addition to his writing, Muñoz is also an associate professor of English at the University of Arizona.

According to the university’s faculty biography, Muñoz has had several works published in journals such as The Boston Review and Glimmer Train.

The audience was privy to a preview of a soon to be released short story titled: “The Hand.”

After the reading, Muñoz admitted that many of his stories are a combination of autobiography and fiction.

“People always ask if it really happened to me,” said Muñoz. “Yes it did, with a little fiction in there too.”

Muñoz stated he likes to blend fact with fiction for his stories, such as using the Central Valley in California where he was raised, much like what Steinbeck and the Salinas Valley. A majority of Muñoz’s stories take place in the Central Valley.

In addition to location, Muñoz incorporates a lot of his upbringing into his stories. Themes revolving around family and religion have found their way into many of his works, though often with a twist.

“It talked about family and religion, but still felt dark throughout it,” said Chelsea Maclan, a sophomore at Old Dominion. “That’s the type of story I like, I enjoyed it.”

Muñoz has been the recipient of a 2008 Whiting Writer’s Award as well as two O. Henry Awards in 2009 and 2015.