One of the first authors I fell in love with was Mark Twain. I had a book of his short stories that I read over and over and over… So, I was really excited when Caramel Tree asked me to write a condensed version of THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER for second language learners. Reading this book again after — let’s say many, many years — was a real pleasure. The characters were like old friends that I hadn’t seen in awhile. The only difference was that they hadn’t aged, and I have!
But that isn’t really true. As an older reader, Tom Sawyer is quite different than how I remember him. Twain has a delicious way of sneaking in details that as a writer I see but as a young reader I glossed over. Rereading the courtship of Tom and Becky, especially Tom’s spying on her on the porch, was picture perfect. I could see this brash boy gone bashful in every sentence.
The plotting was also much richer than I remember. How the missing treasure, Tom’s relationship with his aunt, Huck’s dire home circumstances, a murder, a thrilling court trial, etc. all come together to evoke this small town is simply genius. Throw in scenes set in graveyards, on deserted islands, and in dark caves. There’s love. There’s redemption. Wow.
So, how does an author go about taking this treasure and condensing it to the essence? I decided the best path was to reread the original then sit down and write the story as if I was telling it to a child. Straight through. No going back to look up details or check facts. What I discovered was this method let me get to the core of the story: the main characters, main plot, and theme.
Once I had the first draft, I went back to smooth and pick up important details I had missed. Condensing a book means losing some characters and scenes. This is hard. Simplifying language and sentence structure takes away some of the voice of the original. But in the end I am quite pleased with the result.
I suggest everyone read the original book. But if you have a younger reader that wants a good read, you can find my version by searching under my name at major book outlets. Available May 1.