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Her book is Hollywood, according to Courtney

Courtney Thorne-Smith, with her dogs Ed (left) and Norman, is awaiting the arrival of her first baby and her first -- she stresses non-autobiographical -- novel. Courtney Thorne-Smith, with her dogs Ed (left) and Norman, is awaiting the arrival of her first baby and her first -- she stresses non-autobiographical -- novel. (Associated Press/courtesy the Zizo Group)

LOS ANGELES -- In Courtney Thorne-Smith's debut novel, "Outside In," the characters include a vulnerable TV star, a philandering husband, and a callous mom. None of them are plucked directly from her own life, the actress says firmly.

"I know people are going to think it's autobiographical," Thorne-Smith said. But the cad is not her ex-husband and the dreadful mother is "so comically not my mom. My mom would crawl over hot coals to have lunch with me."

The actress, whose career includes "Melrose Place" and her current gig in ABC's "According to Jim," says she deliberately avoided writing about herself.

"I got out of autobiography because my story is, I was famous, it was hard for me, I got into therapy. I had trouble with food, I got a nutritionist," she said, referring to her "Ally McBeal" days. "There's no story there."

Instead, she wanted to create an actress adrift and alone, without the supportive family and friends Thorne-Smith says got her through rough patches.

"There's so many young women today who look so lost. And I feel like, of course they're lost. They have no one around them to give them real, authentic reflection. Nowhere they can go and say, 'I'm having a hard day,' where someone's not going to say, 'Well, you have to work anyway because you're paying my bills.' "

Although Thorne-Smith doesn't name names, it's easy to conjure up sad images of Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears as she talks.

Her own life seems well-ordered. She's awaiting not only the September publication of her novel but also the arrival of her first child this winter, with her new husband, Roger Fishman. She's also fitting in a seventh year of "According to Jim," scheduled to return at midseason.

The actress clearly is relishing her circumstances -- especially the prospect of parenthood. She was lucky, at age 39, to meet "my guy," the man with whom she wanted to have a family. She and Fishman, 46, married this year.

"We both sort of had to say, 'I don't know if this is going to happen for me.' The fact it's happening is just astounding," she said.

When it comes to her other baby, "Outside In" (Broadway Books), there's no getting around the fact that it's based in Thorne-Smith's world even if she scrupulously avoids attaching real celebrity faces to the characters. The star of "Outside In" is Kate, an insecure actress who's got a tenuous grip on her self-esteem, career, and marriage to Hamilton, a Svengali who's also her manager. Sapphire Rose is her nemesis. Isolated Kate has few resources to muster: At her lowest emotional point, Kate's mom tries to use her celebrity daughter as a party auction item. Kate does find solace in the friendship of makeup artist Paige.

The fictional characters embody real Hollywood misbehavior. Narcissistic diva Sapphire Rose is "an exaggerated composite of every frustration I've ever had on set," Thorne-Smith said. "I've had people acting out in what I considered spoiled behavior. I've waited on set hours and hours for a variety of people for a variety of reasons, and it makes me crazy. Unfortunately, the problem in Hollywood is [such conduct] is supported."

Thorne-Smith seems to have come to grips with the downside of her business -- and extracted some satisfaction by targeting the guilty parties in "Outside In."

But it's Kate and Paige who are at the heart of the book, she said. "It's really a story about female friendship and how that first connection helped her to find herself."