Westside Stories: Jim Hornfischer

20 mins read
The Hornfischer family at a 2005 writer’s conference in Hawaii – Jim and Sharon with their children -- David, Grace Ann, and Hutch
By Forrest Preece

I recently had a nice chat with Sharon Hornfischer at her historic West Austin home. Sharon’s late husband Jim was a colossus in the literary world – nationally and in Austin. Ever since he was a boy growing up in Massachusetts, Jim loved reading and writing. After reading one of his stories, an elementary school teacher said, “I predict you’re going to be a writer,” and fate took its course. 

Indeed, Jim grew up to become a towering man, literally and intellectually. At 6’6”, with his wide smile and enthusiastic manner, he dominated a room; and his abilities encompassed many worlds. He is one of the few people to become a New York Times bestselling writer, editor, attorney, and literary agent. He was also a devoted and caring family man. 

At Colgate University, Jim was executive editor of the school newspaper, The Colgate Maroon, and he co-founded and contributed to a sci-fi magazine, The Mage. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1987 with a double major in International Relations and German, Jim headed to New York City where he became an editor at Harper & Row (later Harper Collins).

One serendipitous and snowy day in January 1991, Jim happened to meet a bright young woman named Sharon Simmons, from Texas. It was Sharon’s first visit to New York City, and she was having fun with friends on the Upper West Side when they met by chance, but both knew instantly the interest was mutual. The couple spent the next six months getting to know each other via a long-distance Texas-NYC relationship with nightly phone calls and long letters. “That’s where you can really get to know the content of one’s character,” Sharon says. It was a pretty great way for a couple of old-fashioned romantics to discover love for each other and to embark on a life together. 

In the summer of 1991, Sharon accepted a travel nursing assignment in NYC. She looks back fondly on their courtship in NYC, when she was an emergency room nurse at NYU’s Tisch hospital and Jim was a “baby editor,” working on covert projects like Col. Oliver North’s book, “Under Fire.” He also met and worked on literary projects with greats in their fields such as Nolan Ryan, Ginger Rogers and Erma Bombeck. 

In 1993, Jim accepted a position as a New York based literary agent with The Literary Group International. LGI’s founding partner, Frank Weimann, noticed how Austin was attracting many of the most successful writers in the country. To leverage local talent, Weimann designated Jim to open a new branch in Austin. As a young married couple Jim and Sharon blended into the local writing community, where Jim was quickly recognized for his keen eye toward recognizing important stories that needed to be told. . .

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