Courtney Thorne-Smith is “Outside In”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
October 7, 2007

“It’s an amazing time for me,” says Courtney Thorne-Smith. Besides starring in the popular ABC sitcom “According to Jim,” the 39-year-old actress is happily married, pregnant with her first child and has just made her debut as an author with the juicy novel Outside In.

A page-turner, the book is written from an insider’s viewpoint, with a sharp wit. Kate Keyes-Morgan is a popular TV actress whose husband/manager berates her if she gains a pound. Her nemesis Sapphire Rose is also her delusional (and obnoxious) co-star. Outside In is full of tidbits that will have readers wondering if any of the actors in question are former colleagues of Thorne-Smith’s.

The author/actress took a break from working on her follow-up novel to talk with us about her book and her life.

Q. Why did you decide to write a novel instead of your biography or a memoir?
A. Years ago when I was writing for magazines, I wanted to write a book of essays about personal growth. I sold the idea, and the publisher wanted to call it Courtney Thorne-Smith: Fit and Healthy, and they wanted the cover to be a cartoon of me wearing a leotard and an aerobics belt. We were not on the same page, so I turned that project down. I’ve wanted to write a book of fiction for a while and kept coming up with reasons why I shouldn’t do it. Then I just did it.

Q. What was the impetus that pushed you to write this book?
A. I had always wanted to write a novel but was scared to. I told my boyfriend — who’s now my husband — that writing a novel had always been my secret dream and he said, “Why don’t you?” I said, “What if I write it and no one likes it?” He told me to just write it for myself. I had never thought about doing that because I thought books had to be for someone else. Once I got to that point, I let the characters take over and the writing started. There were days where I just sat there and couldn’t get a word on a page. But I wasn’t terrified of writing a novel anymore.

Q. How do you think it turned out?
A. At first, I had envisioned writing the great American novel, so I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to accomplish that. But once I let that go, and just wrote the kind of accessible fiction that I love, I really liked the outcome. I literally wrote the book for my girlfriends and me. I’d send them parts of the book in e-mails and their positive responses really motivated me to keep going. Their enthusiasm empowered me to write the book in my own voice.

Q. Were you worried that people would mistake the characters for you or your loved ones?
A. I realized that a lot of people would make that assumption but I didn’t worry about it. I was horrified that some people thought that one of the male characters — who is not a nice man — was based on my ex-husband. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My ex-husband is a great guy and a friend. But when I talk about how horrible Sapphire is, it is based on real-life instances on the set. It’s not based on any one actor, but rather a compilation of everything that ever happened on sets that I worked on where some people caused problems.

Q. So many of the female characters in your book are obsessed with weight. Sapphire believes that her smelly “Bah-Bah Thin Sheep” diet will keep her svelte and desirable. You’ve talked about the pressure for actresses to be rail thin. Have you come to terms with your body?
A. At 20, I’m sure that I had a better body than I do now, but I hated it. Today, my body isn’t nearly as “perfect” as it was 20 years ago, but I feel so much better about myself than when I was younger. I used to drive myself crazy working out and still being unhappy about how I looked. You have to make a decision about what you cherish, and I cherish a healthy body — not a skinny one. I’m pregnant and weigh more than I ever have, but I am so thrilled with my body right now.

Q. Are you excited about doing your first book tour?
A. I’m actually really nervous about the book signings. I’ve been doing interviews for the past 20 years so I love doing those. But I’m terrified about talking to fans in a bookstore. I feel pressure to stand up there and be funny, and I’m not so funny! [Laughs.] I’m hoping I read an excerpt and there’s a question-and-answer session. I’m good at answering questions!

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