Before They Were Authors: Melissa Yuan-Innes (Melissa Yi)

I had the pleasure to meet Melissa Yuan-Innes in Toronto at the Ontario Library Superconference this past February. I was immediately struck by her inner kindness and boundless energy. I downloaded her first book in her Hope Sze medical mystery series, CODE BLUES (written under Melissa Yi) as soon as I returned home.  

Judy: What’s the funniest thing that happened to you at work?

Melissa: Ha! I can answer three questions in one. Medicine is the best, worst, and funniest job rolled into one. For example, I got sprayed with pus the other day. I’m talking my face, hair, and clothes. I felt contaminated for the rest of the shift, even though I washed myself as best I could at the sink.

Later, some doctors started talking about the stench of retained foreign bodies (forgotten tampons, usually), which made me thankful I’ve never had to deal with that. And now, if I do, I will fill a bottle with water to quench the foreign body. They say it really kills the smell.

Judy: Have you quit your day job?

Melissa: Not yet. As long as I have enough energy, medicine is fun and keeps me out of the poor house. Even when the work itself is draining (and let me tell you, my last two shifts had me driving home with gritted teeth), I work with people that I consider friends. There is nothing like throwing yourself into saving someone’s life, or fighting for the best care for your patient, and trading war stories afterward.

That said, doctors often call emergency medicine a young person’s game. The nights and weekends weigh you down after a while. I limit my number of shifts so that I can continue to write and enjoy my children instead of yelling, “Mommy needs a nap! Be quiet!”

Judy: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Melissa: Sure! Work hard and enjoy it.

That would apply to most things in life. But I think that the Internet, books, and Aunt Minerva are overflowing with so much advice, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So in the end, you just have to jump in. You want to write? Write. Start there.

Also, when I interviewed author and editor Sarah Cortez, her parents told her, “Follow your dreams, but pay the freight.”

I paid the freight by becoming my own patron of the arts, using medicine to support my writing during years of learning the craft and selling zero short stories. Even if my writing never makes significant money, I want to write for the joy of it.

Other writers have take different paths, including teaching, crowdfunding, having supportive spouses/families, choosing dead end jobs so they can focus on writing, or just leaping into the abyss. All of these can work. Whatever you do, do it hard, and with your whole heart. And make some friends while you’re at it, because otherwise, writing is a lonely road.

About Melissa: Melissa Yi is an emergency physician and award-winning writer. In her newest crime novel, HUMAN REMAINS, one doctor battles bioterrorism. Previous Hope Sze volumes were selected by CBC Radio as a best crime novel of the season and called “entertaining and insightful” by Publishers Weekly. Find her at


21 responses to “Before They Were Authors: Melissa Yuan-Innes (Melissa Yi)

  1. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Carol. Agreed it’s a great interview! Love Melissa’s attitude.

  2. I love this advice Melissa: do it hard, and with your whole heart. <3
    As usual, Judy, an interesting and inspiring interview. All the best to both of you.

  3. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thank you for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed Melissa’s post. You can find other “Before they were Authors” post in my archives.

  4. What a cool interview! I love finding out what authors ‘day jobs’ are or were because its usually something interesting! #getsocial17

  5. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for stopping in, Angela.

  6. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for stopping by and starting #getsocial17.

  7. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for stopping by Tanya!

  8. Very nice interview. Stoping in for the #getsocial17 event.

  9. LOL sounds about like animal rescue/veterinary work. Though no lost tampons but holy cow some of the things you have to deal with. Had one kitten who was SO adorable but kept having a prolapsed rectum that I’d have to squish back in (after being taught by our rescue’s vet). Life experiences, right? lol

  10. Tanya @ Rantings of a Reading Addict

    Great interview! Melissa must have a ton of energy to work in the medical field AND still right. I admire people who can do that. #GetSocial17

  11. And that’s why I could never work in medicine. lol My brother was a CNA and then a firefighter/paramedic and some of the things he told me were just awful. Omg nope, not my kind of job. lol

  12. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for popping by!

  13. Judy Penz Sheluk

    HI Karen, I hope you do check them out. If you pop onto Melissa’s website and sign up for her newsletter, she often offers a free book or story!

  14. Fun interview!
    Visiting for #getsocial17

  15. What a fun interview! Makes me want to check out Melissa’s books even though they aren’t what I usually read.


    For What It’s Worth

  16. Judy Penz Sheluk

    It helped that I met Melissa at the OLA Superconference. You must check out her books, they are terrific!

  17. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks for stopping by Maryanne! I so enjoyed this interview, too.

  18. Wow! way to land an interview with an emergency physcian. I have a hard enough time interviewing local actor/esses for play reviews. I’ll have to read Melissa’s book.

  19. Great interview and good advice…. thank you!

  20. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Hahaha…I figured folks might figure that out, Melissa 🙂

  21. What a great website, Judy. Thank you so much for featuring me. Meeting you was one of the highlights of the OLA superconference.
    P.S. In the group photo, I’m the one in the lab coat and mukluks!

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