Q&A with Lawrence Wright, author of Mr. Texas
December 6, 2023

Q&A with Lawrence Wright, author of Mr. Texas

By Penguin Random House Audio

You may know Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright from his deeply reported and bestselling non-fiction (The Looming TowerGoing ClearThe Plague Year, to name a few). But Wright is also the author of a historical fiction novel, a medical thriller, and his newest release Mr. Texas, a hilarious and sharply observed novel that is both a send-up of Texas politics and a tender portrayal of a dark-horse candidate who risks his personal happiness for a career.  

The Mr. Texas audiobook, read by actor Steven Weber (Wings), is an event in and of itself that contains 8 original songs performed by Wright, his son, and an assortment of Texas musicians. Read our interview with Lawrence Wright below and listen to a clip from this exceptional audiobook production. 

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! We’ll jump right in. You are so well known for your narrative non-fiction work and journalism; what is it like for you to write fiction again, and what inspired you to write Mr. Texas in particular? 

I write in many different formats, but what draws me to fiction is the opportunity to get inside your characters’ heads. You can get to know them in a way that non-fiction simply can’t achieve. I’ve written extensively about Texas and Texas politics but until Mr. Texas I never found a way to capture the vivid personalities that bestride our state, for good and ill.

What do you think most sets the culture of Texas politics apart from other states? Along those lines, how do you see your protagonist Sonny Lamb in relationship with the culture and characters around him?

America is called the United States because it is composed of fifty different experiments in government. Texas is not unique, but it is central to the politics of America. By the year 2050, the state is predicted to be the size of New York and California combined. It’s a responsibility I don’t think Texans have taken on board, and that’s one reason I decided to write the book—as a guide to the future of America. We have to hope that Sonny Lamb is the face of that future, not some of the characters currently at the helm.

The audiobook of Mr. Texas, read by Steven Weber, is so vibrant—what was it like for you to hear Steven read this story? 

I wanted someone who could evoke the characters and do the accents without sounding false or corny, a reader who was fluid in his narration, not mechanical, whose voice conveyed delight and concern. An ideal reader, in other words, and that’s Steven!

The audiobook also includes original music–including work written and performed by you and your son. Did you always know you would perform music for the audiobook? How did it come about?

Look, that was amazingly fun. What a privilege to work with my son on those songs, and with Marcia Ball, a legendary Texas musician. The music actually came before the novel. I had the idea of doing a musical. It’s still a dream, but at least we have some of it in the audiobook. It really enhances the experience, I believe.

As a Texan, what would you say is the “most Texas” quality about yourself? 

Texans love their state, sometimes obnoxiously so. But that love is tempered by the ongoing struggle to keep the politics from becoming predatory and repressive. Sonny Lamb represents the humane alternative. I’d say he expresses my hopes for the state.

Last but not least (we can’t help but ask), if you are a listener of audiobooks, what’s the last great audiobook you listened to?  

The best audiobook reading I’ve ever heard was Bryan Cranston reading Tim O’Brien’s wonderful Vietnam novel, The Things They Carried. His voice is so expressive, his judgment of the sentiments so exact. I just loved it.

Listen to a clip from the Mr. Texas audiobook:

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker, a playwright, and a screenwriter. He is the best-selling author of the novel The End of October and ten books of nonfiction, including Going ClearGod Save Texas, and The Looming Tower, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He and his wife are longtime residents of Austin, Texas.