Evan Smith: What material effect has winning the Pulitzer Prize already had on your life, and what effect do you expect it will have?
Lawrence Wright: A number of people, even my sister, have said that I can die now, though I don’t think that’s required by the rules of the Pulitzer committee. Internally it hasn’t made any difference at all, except it does help me get appointments and meetings that might have been more difficult in the past.
ES: Do you call people now and say, “This is Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright”?
LW: Well, they’ve heard about it. That minor degree of celebrity is useful.
ES: I wonder if it’s like winning the best actor Oscar, when suddenly everybody wants you in his movie. I imagine book publishers are saying, “Oh, yeah, he can do whatever he wants to do. He now has a free ride.”
LW: One of my books is already coming back into print, a novel I wrote about [Panamanian dictator Manuel] Noriega called God’s Favorite, so it does feel like spring. I don’t know how long it lasts.
ES: Do you look at The Looming Tower now, having put it aside, presumably, for the past year, and say, “Yeah, it’s pretty good,” or do you see the blemishes that we don’t?
LW: In the past I’ve had a more realistic notion of how my work stood in the world. There are many times when you’re in the middle of a writing project and you’re pulling yourself ahead by imagining what a great hit it’s gonna be, and you can envision yourself standing up on the podium—at least this is true for me, in my most deluded moments—accepting all these prizes, and it helps get you ahead. And then when you’re actually finished with it, all of that illusory stuff tends to dissolve, and you begin to get a more sober view of what you’ve accomplished. Your readers, your friends, and your editor start to give you a sense of its real worth.
ES: Let’s talk about the subject of the book. We’re coming up on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. Do we really know what happened on that day? Because it seems that out here in the world, not just among black-helicopter types, there are still questions about who these terrorists were, what their motives were, and whether there are aspects of the plot that we haven’t entirely figured out.
LW: We know what happened on September 11. It’s not a mystery. The mystery, rather, has to do with human nature, with why people believe in things that have no evidence to support them. I’ve been dogged by