By Naomi Klouda
Homer-raised Josh Hornaday’s book, “The Meth Conspiracy,” presents a heart-breaking topic wrapped in a fantasy-science fiction. Its ideas stemmed from his work in family law and advocacy.
“Meth causes terrible destruction of the family and it’s amazing how easy it is for people to get ahold of it,” Hornaday said, speaking in an interview from his home in a suburb of Chicago where he is an attorney. Farm homes and barns of the midwest are used by manufacturers of methamphetamine because of the isolation and access to fertilizer, an ingredient in cooking meth. In his work, Hornaday said prosecutors and attorneys feel despair at the scope of the problem, which has become epidemic in the mid west.
Writing as J.E. Horn, Hornaday is the son of former Mayor Jim Hornaday. He was born in Soldotna in 1977. During his years of being raised in Homer, he credits teachers and librarians for instilling in him a love of writing: His second-grade teacher at Paul Banks, Mrs. Beaumont, who got him hooked on the Chronicles of Narnia; His mother, Karen Hornaday, also influenced him in a love of literature. Quietly, he wrote fantasy and other stories through the years, but didn’t seek publication until this recent work.
“I surprised everyone when I came out of the writer’s closet. My dad was shocked, too,” he said.
The book’s main character is Jonathan Champion, a “golden boy” federal prosecutor who made his mark bringing down some of the biggest meth dealers the country had ever known. But when he loses his wife and child, Champion falls into a hopeless depression. He enters a fantasy world where a crazed woman tells him he is the hope for his people. He has to decide whether to keep fighting the bad forces that proliferate meth addiction, or to hide from it.
The younger Hornaday is getting good reviews. Lisa B. Carnes, a reader posting on Amazon.com, wrote: “Horn has written a fantasy unlike any of its contemporaries. It is a truly original work and has reached a high bar for the author’s first published novel. I measure a book based on its ability to draw me into its world, and from early on I was engaged and by the end was looking forward to the next book. I am hopeful there is a second in the series.”
Another commented that the author created “an extremely original story line that deftly intermingles ‘real world’ issues in the context of a strange (but sometimes strangely-recognizable) world.”
The story became a place to let go of some of his own despair.
“This book was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It was almost therapeutic because handling some of the case I’ve had were incredibly sad.”
In family law, Hornaday represents parents who were using meth and lost custody of their children. In one case, a parent and teen were manufacturing it together after the parent introduced it to her son.
“We aren’t talking about this being off in a cornfield. This was in a nice neighborhood of Chicago,” he said.
Currently, Hornaday is working on a sequel to “Meth Conspiracy.” He continues his law practice, but not full time. He and his wife have a four and an eight-year old. He said he wishes he could get back to Homer more often.
“Homer, as far as being an arts community, is a very courageous community. People are doing a lot of things there,” he said. “It was easier for me, once I showed people what I was doing, to pursue writing.”
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