Melissa Joan Hart, the actress best known from tween-fave TV shows like Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, made news recently for something far removed from those innocent characters she played in ’90s. In late September, prospective readers got the first taste of the stories that show up in her memoir, Melissa Explains It All, which goes on sale Oct. 29 — and those stories included dishy memories of her famous friends and crazy parties circa 2000.
“I came out of [that time] pretty much unscarred,” Hart, now 37, tells TIME. “It’s like my husband says: ‘You got away with it, and now you’re telling everyone about it!’”
So why did she decide to dish?
“People think of me as just a goodie-two-shoes girl-next-door and I wanted people to know that I am a little bit more normal than they think, that I went through the same up and downs, and did some of the same things they did, whether it was at college or on the Sabrina set,” she says. “I pretty much put it all in there.”
But don’t call Melissa Explains it All a “tell-all”: the author says that she her intention wasn’t to gossip but to recount the memories that contributed to who she is today. For example, a story about finding that Calista Flockhart was much nicer than William Hurt when they were all in a play together (Beside Herself, in 1989) isn’t told to single out Hurt but to show how Flockhart became one of Hart’s role models. “I’m not trying to get people in trouble or make any enemies, which I’m sure I will, but I just am telling the stories the way I remember them,” she says. “And I think a lot of them happen to be pretty interesting, you know?
Though she let her mother vet the family stories that would end up in the book (about her parents’ divorce, for example), she says that reaction to other stories that have leaked has been mixed. She doesn’t keep in touch with many of the old friends who are mentioned in the book, but says she doesn’t mean any harm and always tried to be fair to both sides. What’s more surprising than the mixed reaction from those mentioned in the book, says Hart, is the scandalized reaction from fans: “The stories I’m telling aren’t big news to anybody. Some of the stories I told, like Drew Barrymore teaching a boy to kiss, or William Hurt not being exactly kind to children, they’re not big bombs I’m dropping.”
And there’s one other reason to tell the stories that audiences might not expect from the woman behind Sabrina. Unlike those of the stars of today’s hit teen shows, Hart’s personal stories aren’t already public knowledge — which the actress can appreciate. “Had social media existed,” she says, “I probably wouldn’t have gotten away with it!”