What’s the last book you read?
“Masters of Mystery: The Strange Friendship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, by Christopher Sandford. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is my favorite author of all time. I’ve read all his books, and I felt like finishing it off with a biography.”
Why do you love him?
“Because of his writing style. He makes the characters seem like they existed. Also, because of his life. He went to Catholic school, and he was supposed to be a doctor. Then he was a sailor. And then he was a writer. All these different paths. It’s kind of cool: even if you set out to do one thing in your life, you still have these choices. You can still be successful even if what you end up doing and loving isn’t the first thing you set out to do.”
Tell me about Masters of Mystery.
“It’s really cool, because it’s about spiritualism. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the pioneers of spiritualism back in the Victorian era.”
What is spiritualism?
“It’s kind of like a religion. They have really good connections to spirits and stuff — ghosts. They perform séances. They’re more connected spiritually in that way, instead of to a God or something.”
Did that belief influence his writing?
“It was in some of his books, like the Professor Challenger series; books like The Land of Mist and The Poison Belt. But other than that, there wasn’t a lot of it in his books.”
Does it show up in Masters of Mystery?
“Yes. It’s specifically about their relationship. They had known each other for a while. But there was a big argument, because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was really into spiritualism, and Harry Houdini was actively speaking out against it. So, there was a little bit of tension between them. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t want to believe that what Harry Houdini was doing [with his séances] was just illusions. He thought that Harry Houdini was a medium.”
What book was most life-changing for you?
“All of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories were super life-changing for me. I read them all probably around 2013 when I was maybe 16. I really connected with them. It was a time in my life where I had really bad anxiety, and at that point, I had really bad selective mutism. I couldn’t talk a lot. The books were a way for me to cope with my mental illnesses. Being able to connect with these characters let me release a lot of the stuff that was inside me.”
Which of his books is your favorite?
“The Lost World, because it’s really fun. It’s these Victorian guys going to South America, and they find dinosaurs. The writing style is more fast-paced and funny; it wasn’t taking itself too seriously. I really enjoyed that I was still able to connect to these characters in the same way as the more serious stuff, like Sherlock Holmes. It was cool that that personal aspect of his writing still hit when he was doing something more lighthearted and comedic.”
What’s one of his serious books that you especially like?
“There’s a book of letters between him and his family and friends. I really like that one because you get more of an inside look at his life, what was actually going on, than you would from his novels or even biography.”
Are you in any kind of reading group?
“No, I’m a personal reader. I kind of keep it to myself.”
Do you read any magazines or newspapers?
“Buzzfeed online, and the Huffington Post. That’s mainly it.”
Name: CHARLOTTE WILSON | Age: 19 | Occupation: PHARMACY TECHNICIAN | Neighborhood: LA MESA | Where interviewed: GROSSMONT CENTER BARNES & NOBLE