In Melissa Yi’s debut medical thriller, Code Blues, Dr. Hope Sze tries to resuscitate a doctor who died in the men’s locker room of a Montreal hospital. Then she uncovers his killer with the help of not one, but two, delectable men. Yi, who is a real-life emergency doctor, offers an exclusive interview about her novel.
Why did you write about Hope Sze, a medical resident who turns into an amateur detective?
I think it’s a matter of “write what you know,” since I had just finished my emergency medicine training, plus I like mysteries and romance.
I woke up with the idea of writing a series about a resident doctor named Hope, starting with Cross My Heart, where she solves a mystery but romance is key. In Hope to Die, she would receive death threats. I changed the titles, but the ideas stayed. Of course, I thought the third would be called Stick a Needle and be set on surgery and the fourth, In My Eye, would be on ophthalmology, but I’ve only written the first two.
Some people think it’s not realistic that Hope would agree to solve crimes.
I don’t know. If I found someone I knew who had died under mysterious circumstances, I might investigate it. Doctors tend to take charge and I’m nosy. It doesn’t mean I’d be any good at it! But I tried to write it as realistically as possible while still keeping it a good story.
What about Alex Dyck and John Tucker, the two men vying for her attention? Is that realistic too?
It could happen, but I made them up. Unfortunately. Or maybe not unfortunately, as you can see in the book.
You didn’t have two guys fighting over you?
I wish! Actually, I’m one of those annoying people who found the right guy almost immediately. I married my high school sweetheart during medical school.
So you’re not into bad boys?
I’m into self-preservation. But it doesn’t hurt to imagine how the other half lives.
What about the medicine?
That part’s all true. I was actually cringing during the edits, remembering what it was like, having to explain to patients’ families on the internal medicine ward and on pediatrics that they had to bring their own diapers (BYOD. Much less fun than BYOB), or running up the stairs and finding plaster that had crumbled off the wall on the stairs. A nephrologist told me that their weight scales were broken, but no one would pay to fix them, so they just had to guess how much to dialyze their patients. A neurologist told us he needed heating packs when testing patients’ nerve function, or else the test wasn’t accurate, but no one would pay for those, either.
Is the Canadian medical system that bad?
No, parts of it are excellent! Seriously, Quebec is in a crisis. Like Hope, I came to Montreal from Ontario (a neighbouring province) after doing medical school at the University of Western Ontario and I was shocked at the difference. Like, on one floor, the nurses didn’t do electrocardiograms or draw blood, so if a patient had chest pain, I was supposed to do everything–and run all the other patients at the same time, all night. Sadly, the Ontario system has now deteriorated as well, but there are so many good doctors, nurses and administrators fighting the good fight to give patients the care they deserve.
Isn’t this an argument against socialized medicine?
No, it’s an argument against medicine that’s poorly executed, which can happen anywhere, whether it’s for profit or non-profit. A one-tier system, where government pays the bills instead of multiple insurance companies, saves about 10 percent of costs right off the top. And in general, it doesn’t make sense to me to have companies making a profit from ordering scans or offering surgeries you don’t need. I’d rather have healthy people who only come in to emerg when they really need it.
I’m in favour of medical care for everyone. I think it should be accessible to all, just like clean water, unpolluted air, and a proper education.
You wrote “favour” and “neighbour”. Your spelling is…
Not American. I know. Canadian spelling incorporates British and American spelling, which means I’ve made up my own hybrid. My copy editor made changes, but I changed them back. To me, anaesthetist just looks cooler than anesthetist. More learned, somehow. Yet anaestheologist seems stuffy to me. Strange, I know.
Why do you use a pseudonym?
Well, my real name is Melissa Yuan-Innes. Try saying that three times fast. For the record, I pronounce “Yuan” like “It’s just YOU ‘n’ me, kid.” I have now worked for years with nurses and unit coordinators who mispronounce it or who say, “I know how to pronounce it. It’s Dr. Melissa.”
I started publishing under my real name, mostly fantasy and science fiction and medical humour, but for mystery/thrillers, I decided to go with Yi, pronounced Yee. It’s snappier. It also helps people distinguish between genres. My kids books will be under Melissa Yuan and romance will be Melissa Yin.
Thank you for explaining. So what are you working on now?
The sequel to CODE BLUES, NOTORIOUS D.O.C., debuts September 3rd. Hope decides to help a grieving mother investigate a hit-and-run accident from eight years ago. And the love triangle continues. I remember Sting once said that if it’s just “I love you, you love me,” that’s boring, but once you bring in a third party, it becomes interesting. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
But I hope to release novels in all my genres before my maternity leave ends in October. Thanks for reading!
Thanks for stopping by!
Notorious D.O.C. continues Hope Sze’s adventures September 3rd, 2011.
Melissa Yuan-Innes is also the author of the radio medical drama No Air (on Smashwords andKindle) and a collection of medical humour called The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World and Other True Tales From the Emergency Room (on Smashwords & Kindle, under the name Melissa Yuan-Innes). She welcomes visitors at www.melissayuaninnes.net.