Green Bike began as a writing exercise of the Emporia Writers, an independent meeting group of the Kansas Authors Club. The project started as shared files on the group’s Facebook page. All members of the group were invited to participate using a McGuffin—the green bike—as the symbol that would unite the stories.
Entries were posted as they were completed, in the same order as they appear in this book. The project started in September, with the final chapters being completed around March of the following year.
“It was a challenge that tested me on many levels,” said Tracy Million Simmons. “To write something and immediately share it with multiple readers, without the usual levels of internal processing—read, rewrite, read, rewrite—that my work usually undergoes, was a big step for me as a writer.”
Rabas a former jazz musician and continuing jazz and Beat literature aficionado said he felt at home with this novel’s improvisatory structure. “Although improvisatory,” Rabas said, “the story hangs together. It’s a cohesive narrative, not just an exercise. A good deal of thought went into the story’s characters, and, although the plot was not predetermined, we knew the strengths and limitations of the characters—what they would do and would not do—and fittingly character drove and determined plot, as did the sensibilities of the three writers. We know each other, and we know what kinds of tales we might be capable of. Beyond that, we pushed ourselves—and our characters. When it felt like something (a scene, an arc in the plot) was going slack, one’s coauthors would turn up the heat and test us all.”
In early guidelines for the project participants, Mike Graves wrote, “We’re using the green bike as a common element, and we’re writing individual stories… This is tentatively titled, “Love Stories.” I think it’s the author’s choice as far as building on the same story/characters, but each author is welcome to do so. I liken this to hitting a baseball. We don’t know if the next pitch is going to be a fastball or a slider. Just grab a bat and take a swing.”
Kevin Rabas and Graves almost immediately began intertwining stories, borrowing each other’s characters and affecting the momentum of each other’s stories. Simmons’s contribution evolved more independently, and became, in her mind, almost a prequel to the story of her co-authors. “At some point I decided I was writing about the origin of the green bike. Where did this classic Schwinn come from, anyway? I was writing the story of the first rider, perhaps, the woman who loved the bike first.”
As for the publishing aspect, Rabas said, “We wrote Green Bike on a shared, private Facebook page. So only a group of about 20 could see it—and cheer us on. It was not open to the public. Later, we scraped the text from Facebook and formatted the novel ourselves using Adobe InDesign. However, scraping from Facebook sometimes introduced daunting formatting errors, which we took days or weeks cleaning up. Later, I shopped the novel, and got a hit. A publisher with arms in KC and Arizona wanted it, edited it, and sent a contract, but, in the end, we fell on aesthetic differences, and decided to pull the novel, reedit it, and publish it ourselves, following our own unique vision. So, the novel’s been around the block. I think we can all say we’re satisfied with it now. Hope you are, too. We love how it turned out.”
Rabas called the novel “a wild campus romp.” He said, “It’s at once a love story, a love triangle, a kunstlerroman (artist’s way novel), coming of age tale, wild college days tale, and tale about losing an aging loved one. How can it be all of these things? Because it’s a novel of parallel tales. We’re not just in one narrative. We’re in three.”