Dean Butler Reveals What It Was Like Writing About “Little House”: 'I've Lived a Very Fortunate Life' (Exclusive)

The actor who played Almanzo Wilder shares why he loves meeting fans, what kissing Melissa Gilbert was like and his favorite Laura Ingalls Wilder book

<p>Bobby Bank/Getty Images; Kensington Publishing Corp.</p> Dean Butler; The cover of

Bobby Bank/Getty Images; Kensington Publishing Corp.

Dean Butler; The cover of 'Prairie Man'

When Dean Butler looks back at playing Almanzo Wilder in the The Little House on the Prairie series, he sees a lot to be grateful for. The actor, writer and producer, 68, has a memoir coming out June 25 about his life and experience on the show, Prairie Man: My Little House Life and Beyond. In recounting his journey so far, he tried to do so with the authenticity and honesty that governs the way he shows up in the world.

“I wanted to be honest about what my life was, and particularly where Little House was concerned, because so much has been said about it, so much has been written about it,” he told PEOPLE. “It's an iconic program. Little House is a part of people's lives, and it has been for a long time.”

While he does share stories about co-stars Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert, he said his intention was never to write “a tell-all memoir.”

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“Even when something may not feel great in the moment, or the initial memory of it isn't perhaps great in the moment,  in the context of things, I feel like there's mostly good,” he says. “ I feel very fortunate. There are things that maybe weren't what they could have been or what we'd hoped they'd be, and I've tried to share those moments with a balance.”

<p>NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images</p> Dean Butler (left) and Melissa Gilbert

NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Dean Butler (left) and Melissa Gilbert

Ever since he was a shy high school sophomore stepping in front of a microphone for the first time to announce the varsity basketball lineup on a November night in 1971, Butler has found a home onstage. While the sense of being listened to resonated with him, so does the human connection that comes with being part of a production.

“You become part of something that's bigger than you in that moment, and you're all contributing to it,” he says. “That really lit me up and started me down this path.”

That path has led him straight into the hearts of many, especially as love interest Almanzo Wilder on Little House, which legions of fans (of all genders) have confessed as their first crush.

Related: Little House on the Prairie's Dean Butler Says Viewers Still Approach Him About Being Their 'First Crush' (Exclusive)

Butler considers that position an honored one. “I think what's really beautiful is so many of these women walk up to me with their husbands and children in tow and will tell me that I'm their first crush, and their husband is standing there just like, ‘Okay,’ ” he says, with a laugh, “I always say to husbands. ‘Thank you for being such a good sport.’ ”

<p>Giulio Marcocchi/Getty Images</p> Dean Butler on Nov. 11, 2003, in Hollywood

Giulio Marcocchi/Getty Images

Dean Butler on Nov. 11, 2003, in Hollywood

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He says he was always raised to be transparent, and keeps that in mind when meeting fans, as well. “I want them to feel like they're dealing with the real thing that they liked, admired, fell in love with, enjoyed, laughed with, you know, whatever I brought to them [back then], I want them to feel like they're getting something that's authentic,” he explains.

That sensibility was present when shooting some of Little House’s most memorable scenes, Butler says, including the iconic first kiss between Almanzo and Laura, played by Gilbert. At the time, Butler was in his early 20s and Gilbert had not yet had her first kiss, on or off the screen. And both actors approached it with the gravity the moment required.

Related: Little House on the Prairie's Dean Butler Wished He Was 'Closer' to Melissa Gilbert's Age (Exclusive)

“It was an important moment for the show. It was a big moment in her life as a young actress. It was a big moment for me, as someone who is going to be now cemented into this,” Butler explains. “This had to be a very pure, equal kiss. You watch the kiss and it's a very chaste, sweet, simple little kiss.”

<p>NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images</p> Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler in 'Little House on the Prairie'

NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert and Dean Butler in 'Little House on the Prairie'

Looking back, Butler has to laugh about the furor that moment inspired, even earning a TV Land award for greatest kiss. “When I look at the kiss now, I think, ‘Oh, God, you were so geeky in this,’ ” he laughs. "It's like, 'What are you doing?’ This is the most uncool thing in the world, but what it is it may not be cool, but it's very sweet.”

Butler’s feelings about that moment mirror his gratitude for everything the show has brought into his life and the people it has affected. For that matter, he has a similar feeling to people reading his book, and sharing the stories that make up his life.

“If I've been able to be a part of that idyllic moment, that's something that honors me forever,” he says. “I am blown away by that. I'm touched by it. I am humbled by it. It’s special for me to feel like so many people have been positively impacted by a piece of work that I did. It is very important to me to do it well.”

Prairie Man: My Little House Life and Beyond is out June 25 from Kensington Books and is available for preorder now, wherever books are sold.

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