Renee Leigh - Books That Make You Smile

Renee Leigh - Books That Make You Smile
author of the day

When she isn't practising law in her "spare time", Renee Leigh enjoys writing the type of books that she likes to read. Books that are light-hearted and fun to read while you are sitting back with a glass of wine. As our author of the day, Leigh reveals how she actually wrote You Should Smile for herself, how she shapes her characters and talks about her binge-writing habits.

Please give us a short introduction to You Should Smile

You Should Smile is a professor-student love story.  It features quirky characters and tongue-in-cheek writing.  Though, like its author, the book doesn't take itself too seriously, it does try to focus on serious themes and relationship issues in a way that maintains a fun atmosphere.  In the end, I want to make readers finish the book with a smile!

What inspired you to write about a romance between a student and her professor?

My favorite erotic romance books are those with the forbidden relationships - the "build-up" to that first crossing of the line.  I thought that the professor-student taboo would be a good way to cultivate a loving relationship from a forbidden beginning.  Because I wanted Thad and Shay's love story to be a more realistic love, I made the story about a graduate student and young professor so that the age difference wasn't too dramatic.  

What drew you to Romance as a genre?

As an attorney, I read all day - usually boring and very legalistic books.  At the end of the day, all I want to do is turn that part of my mind off and just have fun reading.  I've found that romance does that for me.  I enjoy light-hearted and comedic romances the best - books that don't cause too much emotional turmoil or analytical thinking.  Just sit back with a glass of wine and have fun!  I've always written on the side because I love to write. I started writing You Should Smile about three years ago.  In the beginning, I was writing it for myself - just telling a story that made me smile.   When I decided to publish it and take writing seriously, I knew I wanted to write my books for that particular audience, those who just want a fun read at the end of long day.

Tell us about the title.  Why did you name the book "You Should Smile"?

I got it from the opening line of the book, which all started with a phrase running around in my head.  His opening line to her is, "You should smile."  He sees her standing at the gas station, looking sad and something just makes him want to see her smile.  She teases him that telling women to smile can be offensive - and their banter and chemistry just take off from there.  Little do either of them know, of course, that he's about to become her professor.

Does your job as an attorney ever influence your writing?

Definitely.  The sexual harassment of Shay in You Should Smile is, unfortunately, something we come across a lot in employment and education law.  The entire development of her sexual harassment by her main advisor was based on many cases I've seen in real life, including her reasons for not telling anyone about it.  In my second book, Sunlit Smile, I focus primarily on the increasing use of GHB in date rape scenarios and that, too, is unfortunately  something we are seeing more and more of, especially on college campuses.

The hero in You Should Smile is quite possessive - why did you give him this personality?

Thad has anger issues that stem from being abandoned by his father and not dealing with it in a healthy way.  I think his battle the entire time is NOT being able to be with Shay, fighting that need, and yet still not wanting anyone else near her or to hurt her.  That internal struggle is very difficult for him.  

Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?

Yes.  I think Shay became more insecure and awkward as I wrote her.  She's still learning about herself.  She's still trying figure out exactly who she is.   I realized that I was okay with her imperfections as a character.  One thing I do try to do with my characters is make them understand and realize in the end that they need help or that they finally understand why they act the way they do.  Shay, for example, deals with her issues in the beginning by turning to alcohol.  She knows this, and by the end of the book, she takes steps to change that reliance.  I think it's very important to have characters that can understand and address their own flaws.  My characters are always far from perfect, but I love them because of their imperfections and self-awareness.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?  

I can make a mean sweet potato casserole...and I hold my alcohol  well!  (Sometimes at the same time!) Haha.

Do you have any interesting writing habits, what's your average writing day like?

I am a binge-writer.  If I'm in the mood to write, I can write through the night without stopping.  If I'm not in the mood, nothing sounds right that I put down on paper.  I just have to wait to be 'in the mood,' I've realized!

My favorite spot to write and read - tucked under the covers in the bed with my 'personal assistant'. He's not a whole lot of help, honestly. He's sort of lazy and I think he gets paid too much in snacks.

Your books feature dreamy guys. What's your advice on how to meet a nice, dreamy guy?

I think the most important advice for anyone is to be true to what you hold dear and important in finding someone else.  Don't settle.  Don't compromise.  Too often (especially depending on where you live and traditional ages, etc.), women especially are pressured into being married by a certain age or people look at you sort of funny if you want to go to graduate school first, etc.  Don't compromise on what you want in life or in a partner and I think that the rest will work itself out.  Confidence in what you want to find IS sexy.  

What are you working on right now?  

I will soon release the second book in the Smile series, Sunlit Smile.  This is Chris' story.  It's a best-friends-to-lovers story that spans the course of a lifetime.  Shay and Thad show up, too - as do Grant and Ethan.  I actually started working on Chris' story because the phrase "I still remember" wouldn't leave my mind.  I had to stop writing You Should Smile, start on Sunlit Smile, then go back and finish Thad's story. took me a while to get back to Chris, but I did!  He's been my pain-in-the-butt character from the beginning - complicated, unpredictable and heart-wrenching!

I will begin the third book in the Smile series (Lance's story) soon!  I'm outlining right now.  This time, Lance will have the hots for his attorney...and she won't give him the time of day.  I've already got the story swimming around in my head.  I'm so excited about writing it!

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?


I also have a personal page on Facebook as "Renee Leigh".


This deal has ended but you can read more about the book here.