Orphaned at age 13, Pat McKee moved from Florida to Clinton, South Carolina with his younger siblings. There, they arrived at Thornwell Orphanage where Pat learned the value of education and the importance of hard work and leadership. Pat went on to study at Presbyterian College, Georgia State University, and Emory University School of Law. Pat later founded the law firm McKee & Barge where he represents educators and educational institutions. Always a lover of the written word, Pat decided in 2010 to enroll in the Masters of Professional Writing Program at Kennesaw State University where he combined his legal knowledge with imaginative storytelling and a newly sharpened writing technique. A member of the Atlanta Writers Club, Pat was awarded the honor of Best Manuscript Sample for “Ariel’s Island” in both 2017 and 2018. When Pat isn’t writing legal thrillers, he’s spending time with his wife in their Georgia home, or visiting their two children and their granddaughter. To learn more about Pat McKee’s life and work, visit https://www.patmckeeauthor.com
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born in Miami, Florida. My parents were enticed to move to Miami from their home in Pennsylvania by the booming construction industry in south Florida. My early life was spent growing up on a farm not far from the Everglades. My father died as a result of a construction accident when I was seven. My mother passed six years later, and I went to live at Thornwell, a Presbyterian orphanage in Clinton, South Carolina.
My life has been shaped by my experience at Thornwell, where I learned the discipline of hard work and the value of education. I graduated Valedictorian of my high school class in 1969. I worked my way through college, majoring in English and Philosophy, earning my bachelor’s from Georgia State University in 1973, and my law degree, from Emory University in 1977.
I took a job at the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia in Atlanta where I rose to the position of Senior Assistant Attorney General. I met my future wife, Donna, through friends at the Attorney General’s Office and we married in 1987. I decided to strike out on my own professionally and two years later founded the law firm of McKee & Barge with a law school friend.
Donna and I moved in 1991 from Atlanta to the beautiful town of Newnan to raise our daughter, Jessica. A son, Patrick, was born in 1994. In 1996 I began transitioning my practice from Atlanta to Newnan. I now practice exclusively out of my office in Newnan so that I can spend as much time as I can with Donna, Jessica and her husband, Alden, Patrick, and now, my granddaughter, Sloane.
I have always been a writer, in high school, college, law school, and as a lawyer. Friends and family encouraged me to tell the story of a boy who grows up in an orphanage and through hard work and a good education becomes a successful lawyer. At first this work took the form of a memoir, then I was encouraged to use my knowledge as a practicing attorney to write a legal thriller, and my first book of fiction, Ariel’s Island, is the result.
Ariel’s Island is a thriller about a young lawyer, Paul McDaniel, who is framed for the murder of a judge. Paul enlists his assistant, Ariel, an AI program, to help clear his name and rescue Melissa, a beautiful heiress, who is also implicated in the murder. Ariel begins as Paul’s able assistant, becomes his powerful protector, then changes to a jealous mistress, and ultimately a murderous monster. Ariel’s Island is about the promise of artificial intelligence and the challenges it presents.
How do you create your characters?
I’m sure you recognize the name Ariel as the all-powerful spirit from Shakespeare’s Tempest. At the end of the Tempest Prospero, a wizard, frees Ariel. The AI program in the novel is inspired by the spirit Ariel in the play and is freed by her creator, Placido. Many of the other characters in the novel have counterparts in the play: Placido, who is the head of R&D for the Milano Corporation in the novel, is based on Prospero, the wizard in the play. Anthony, Placido’s brother and the CEO of Milano Corporation, is the counterpart of Antonio, the Duke of Milan in the play. Paul, the protagonist in the novel, is not based on any character in the play and is autobiographical: He grows up in an orphanage, puts himself through college and law school, and becomes a successful attorney. The novel opens with all of that at risk.
You’re a member of the Atlanta Writers Club. Does having a community help you with your writing process? What would be your advice for aspiring writers?
The Atlanta Writers Club and the Atlanta Writers Conference the Club puts on twice a year have been extraordinarily helpful to me. The inspiration and support from a community of writers – who have been and are going through the same struggles and facing the same challenges – kept me going through the ten years of development that Ariel’s Island took. Writing is a solitary endeavor, and any writer – at whatever stage in their career they may find themselves – will benefit from the friendship, support, and ideas provided by those who are pursuing the same dream.
What do you hope readers take away from this novel?
First, I hope my readers are entertained by a suspenseful story – I have worked hard to make Ariel’s Island a thrilling venture through extraordinary places and harrowing experiences. Second, I want my readers to be opened to the promise and challenges presented by AI that are explored in the book. Ariel’s Island is not science fiction – it is about the issues we face right now.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Writing Ariel’s Island has been a blast from start to finish; though it has been one of the most daunting things I have undertaken, it has also been one of the most rewarding. And people like you who help writers get the word out about their work are wonderful!
Your readers may also be interested to know that I am contributing ten percent of the profits of Ariel’s Island to the school at Thornwell Orphanage to buy books for their library.
Thank you again for this opportunity!