Melissa Yi, an emergency room physician and author, chats to us about how she balances being a writer and part-time doctor. She discusses how her work experiences have made their way into her Hope Sze Medical Mystery Series and she shares some of her favourite emergency room stories. Plus an exclusive sample of her audiobook, Code Blues!
Melissa Yi is the pen name of Melissa Yuan-Innes author of the Hope Sze Medical Mystery thriller series. This is Melissa Yi’s most popular set of novels, centering around Hope, a medical resident who solves crime in Montreal. Melissa Yi also writes fantasy and science fiction, romance, and “just about anything that catches [her] fancy.” When she isn’t writing, Melissa works as an emergency medical physician in Toronto.
Becoming an Author and Physician
Melissa always wanted to be a writer, but early on she wanted to play it safe and make sure she could support herself financially. Melissa loves working with people and didn’t like the idea of writing by herself all day. She chose the path of emergency medicine, which gives her a lot of exciting content to write about. Melissa started writing early on in her medical career and started working at the hospital part-time earlier this year. In medical school, she was one of the winners of the worldwide Science Fiction contest Writers of the Future.
Melissa went the indie publishing route, since her medical thriller novels were part of a niche market. This made it difficult to sell to traditional publishers, especially because the first books also include romance and is not exclusively a mystery. As she gained more experience as an author, she learned that self-publishing removes the gatekeepers you have to go through with traditional publishing. “Instead, you put [your novel] out there and say, let’s see. Let’s let the people decide.” We asked Melissa what her best business decisions have been in her publishing career. She really appreciates her partnership with Kobo, especially with her three newly released Hope Sze Medical Mystery audiobooks.
Melissa’s Real-Life Medical Inspiration
Melissa gets a lot of story ideas from her experience as an emergency physician. One particular incident involving theft of prescription medications inspired her writing on addiction. Melissa has also written about intimate partner violence and sexual abuse, based on medical research she has done and her experiences treating women in the emergency room.
A real-life case of a neurosurgeon who murdered his wife, a family physician appeared in Toronto headlines last year. Melissa donated one of her Hope Sze Medical Mystery novels to the fundraiser for Elana Fric, and the money was given to her family. This was an incredibly moving experience for Melissa, and now, some of the proceeds for Graveyard Shift are being allocated to a university scholarship in member of Elana Fric.
Interesting Stories From the ER
Melissa once met a woman in the emergency room on her night shift. She returned in the morning and found out that the woman had delivered a baby that same night. She had complained of pain in her pelvic area, and soon after the doctor told her that she was having a baby. Another time, Melissa had treated an infant who was acting very strange. Melissa ran a tox screen, indicating that the infant had marijuana in his system.
Experiences with foreign bodies in the rectal area, according to Melissa, are always funny. Her natural tendency, in life and in writing, is to make jokes. People have pointed out that her writing features snarky and dark humor. Working long and brutal night shifts in the emergency room, it helps to add humor in dark circumstances.
Why Melissa Stays Away From Medical Shows
Melissa is one of many medical professionals who does not watch medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy. Melissa is immersed in drama and high stress situations in the emergency room, and these shows can remind her too much about her work. They also contain extensive medical errors, which she can’t help but pay attention to. Having to stay away from medical shows is an “occupational hazard” when you are a physician.
Melissa published Graveyard Shift earlier this month, as well as the audiobooks for the first three Hope Sze Medical Mystery books. Melissa eventually wants to write about Hope travelling to Egypt. Melissa has been to Egypt and thought it would add the element of adventure in Hope’s story. She was fascinated by its ancient history and realized how little she knew about ancient civilizations.
I work ten to fourteen-hour shifts, 24/7, at two different hospitals. I used to work in two different provinces, Ontario and Quebec, but the licensing fees got to be too much. Also, as I mentioned in the Hope Sze series once or twice, the state of the Quebec medicine can be, ah, challenging. I write about whatever strikes my fancy. Medicine-wise, I write everything from medical mysteries and articles for the Medical Post. But for fiction, I write everything from picture books to romance to suspense. From werewolves to baby books. That’s me.