I first learned about Eric Douglas when he did some oral history work for FestivALL and I
was producing the art fairs.
Then I saw his columns in the Metro section of our local paper. I remember trying to wrap my head around the long list of diverse work and interests that he was involved in.
I met Eric in person when he and members of his family were assigned to the same raft on a trip down the Elk River that was sponsored by WV Rivers. I had thought the trip would be shorter than it was, and he thought it would be less strenuous, so it was a bit of a surprise for both of us. It was still a good experience, at least for me, since he and his family were good company for this unexpected adventure and knew what to do to get us all through it.
Eric’s personal mission is to help us to understand nature, especially the oceans, in order to protect it. He has evolved from a photographer who happened to write to a writer who also takes photographs, with a primary focus on underwater scuba diving.
He describes himself as a nice guy who is open and accessible and likes to tell stories. He graduated from Marshall University in Journalism in 1989 and decided that he loved features and writing about people in both fiction and non-fiction.
Eric has written eleven books in what he calls the Mike Scott series. The primary character in this series is a photojournalist who works for a magazine and travels the world. Mike Scott is named for a real-life friend from high school and college who passed away from cancer in his early twenties.
The books are a way to remember his friend and imagine what his life could have been. The first book was written fifteen years following his passing.
Eric recognizes that his fiction is not high literature. He is content if it entertains a reader for four or five hours on a cross-country flight. He wants the reader both to escape and to learn. His own goal is to have fun and also learn about the oceans and protect them and the life that depends on them, like sharks and coral reefs.
He also wants us to understand what the oceans mean to the greater world. He talks
about pollution, the importance of the coral reefs, and the protection of cities from storms. It is important for even those of us in our land-locked state to invest in protecting the oceans.
Eric pointed with pride to his tenth book in the Mike Scott series, where he introduced a female FBI agent. He viewed it as an intellectual challenge to write a fair representation of a woman as a human being who is both tough and strong.
Born and raised in Cross Lanes, Eric graduated from Nitro High School before going to Marshall. He worked at newspapers here and in Matewan before moving to California and then to Durham, North Carolina. He worked full time in the scuba diving industry and still writes a monthly column for Scuba Diving magazine that began more than a dozen years ago.
Ten years ago Eric moved back to West Virginia to be near family and friends, including his parents and his daughters. His current wife is also from here.
Eric views West Virginia as a special place. He loves our state and says that it is an easy place to be even thought it has its challenges.
He wants to be able to contribute as he can. The smaller size of the state makes it easier to know people who can get things done. He can have a kind of effect here that was not possible in California or in North Carolina.
When Eric first moved back he was free-lancing, consulting, and writing his books. He is now working full time as the Assistant News Director for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. In this job he does reporting, including news stories, spot news, features, and interviews with experts. He also produces West Virginia Morning.
Working full time takes a lot of mental energy that he strives to balance with his personal writing.
Some of his documentary projects include an effort to collect oral histories of our state’s war veterans from World War II on. He has learned that the situations have changed but the stories are similar in terms of missing home, losing friends, and the reasons for joining the service.
Eric has also worked with a friend with stage four breast cancer, which is now in remission, to share her thoughts and feelings during her chemotherapy sessions. He said this is like coming full circle back to his friend who had cancer early on. Fortunately his friend now has a better outcome.
I asked Eric to recommend a book to start with to gain insight into his work. He said his Mike Scott series is written to be able to drop in and out, and he suggested “Water Crisis", which is his tenth book in the series. In this book he focuses on the water crisis and takes on international issues like the effects of water refugees in a country like Syria.
Eric highlighted how this book meets his criteria of telling a fun story while learning a few things. It is a combination of entertaining and informing at the same time. He described its genre as a thriller novel.
And just last month, Eric released the 11th book in the Mike Scott series. It’s called “Held Hostage: Search for the Juncal.” The Nuestra Senora del Juncal is a Spanish colonial shipwreck that sank off the coast of Mexico in 1631. In real life, the authorities are still looking for it. In Eric’s story, he touches on the history of the ship and also the way the Spanish treated the Maya people at the time.
Eric is another writer who we are very fortunate to have here in our midst. His insights and experiences can bring us new perspectives while we are still here at home. He introduces us as his readers to aspects of the greater world that we may never see at first hand.