Jerry Amernic

Travis Black
"A Collection of Short Horror Stories"

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
December 3, 2004

Q. Who is Bill Miltenberger?

A. Bill Miltenberger writes under the name of Travis Black. His stories appear on the Web and in print in several short story anthologies. He was born in St. Louis where he attended Washington University and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. He then worked for 34 years for McDonnell Douglas Corporation, a military aircraft manufacturer, with most of his time spent in advanced design before retiring and starting his own consulting company. Retiring once again, Mr. Miltenberger decided to pursue a writing career. He is a past president of The St. Louis writers Guild. He has been married for 32 years to a lovely woman, Connie; and has three grown children and one grandson. He currently lives in St. Louis.

Q. Why did you decide to write under the name Travis Black?

A. Over lunch and several drinks at a Welsh pub in the St. Louis Central West End, a friend of mine and myself voted on which of several pen names for me to use. None of the names on our list seemed right so we threw the list away. Then my friend had the idea of combining two of my family names, Travis and Black. The name had a certain ring to it. We celibated the birth of Travis Black that day with a toast.

Q. How did you come about the idea to write short stories?

A. Friends of mine in The St. Louis Writers Guild said short stories were the way to start out and hone your writing craft. So I wrote my first short story, 'Trick or Treat'. I submitted it to an e-zine publisher and within a couple of weeks I received a notice from him that he intended to feature it in his October issue. The acceptance of that story fired my entheusiasm for writing, and I began to write other short stories and submitting them to e-zines and print magazines. I took some time off in 2000 to write my first novel, 'Too Many Secrets'. After finishing that, I returned to writing more short stories chiefly concerned with ghosts and spirits.

Q. Is mystery and horror the only genre you write?

A. All my short stories fall in the Horror genre. According to 'The Horror Readers' Advisory', which is a guide for librarian's in the works of horror, there are about 10 subgenres of horror. Most of my short stories stick in the subgenre of Ghosts and Haunted Houses. However, my novels are not horror. They are action suspense. My first novel, 'Too Many Secrets,' involves money, power, and lies. My second novel, 'Let the Good Times Die,' involves terrorism. At the time they were written, it was the headlines of the day that produced the story idea.

Q. How long have you been writing?

A. As an engineer, I was involved in a great deal of technical writing. As I advanced in rank and responsibility, I went from writing test procedures and design specifications to marketing proposals and presentations. I didn't start writing 'for fun' until about three years before retiring from McDonnell Douglas Corporation. I have been writing 'for fun'about 10 to 12 years.

Q. Will you give a brief synopsis of the novel you are working on?

A. Yes. The title is 'Let the Good Times Die'. Picture the chaotic atmosphere of a New Orleans Mardi Gras. Insert three independent terrorist sleeper cells that intend to strike blows against America ranging from suicide bombing of the revellers and nuclear contamination of the port to the spread of smallpox across the country. Larry Dupuis is a veteran reporter for a New Orleans newspaper the Times-Picayume. His involvement starts at an upscale bar in the warehouse district of New Orleans. He arrives at the bar because of an anonymouse tip about a conspiracy between a local bank and a charity to fund acts of terrorism. He pursues the murky leads of his shady source and discovers that the terrorists intend to attack on Mardi Gras just two weeks away. The countdown begins. If he doesn't find the answers before the city is flooded with visitors, thousands, perhaps millions of people in the United States will die.

Q. Which of your short stories is your favorite?

A. 'Trick or Treat.' It was the first short story I ever wrote, so when a publisher said he would publish it, I was elated. When several other publishers wanted to publish it, I really felt good. When one of the editors nominated it for the category of 'One of the Best Short Stories on the Web in 99' that was iceing on the cake. 'Room 6' and 'Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty' are also near top of my list of favorites.

Q. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

A. I write in my son's old bedroom. It's quiet and at one end of the house, so I can write undisturbed at any time of the day or night. If I decide to write early in the morning before my wife wakes up, I can.

Q. What would you like readers to receive from reading your short stories and your upcoming novel?

A. Enjoyment! If my stories evoke a reaction in the reader, it means I did the job I set out to do. Provide entertainment.