Exclusive Interview: “The Shapes Of Wrath” Author Melissa Yi


Having put Dr. Hope Sze through the ringer nine times already in her Hope Sze Medical Crime series, author Melissa Yi is giving her crime solving medical professional a break…by adding paranormal elements to the mix. Which is as much of a break as the good doc is ever going to get. In the following email interview, Yi discusses The Shapes Of Wrath (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), the first book of her new spin-off series, Hope’s Seven Deadly Sins.

Melissa Yi The Shapes Of Wrath Hope's Seven Deadly Sins Thriller Hope Sze Medical Crime

I’d like to start with some background. First, who is Dr. Hope Sze, what is her specialty?

So, fresh out of med school, her stethoscope gleams, Hope Sze can’t wait to handle her first trauma during her residency in family medicine…only to discover a murderer within the hospital.

Up until now, Hope played the good girl role: the M.D., the big sister, even dating the perfect guy her Chinese grandmother located at church. But now Hope’s got to save lives, fight off a killer, and juggle two different men at once.

Second, what is your Hope Sze Medical Crime series about, and where and when do those books take place?

Sex, drugs, and doctors in Montreal, Canada!


More seriously, though, during my own family medicine residency in Montreal, I couldn’t believe the number of patients piling up in the hallways. I wanted a villain I could take on physically. My subconscious invented Dr. Hope Sze, who fights crime as well as disease.

The series started in 2011, but now I write them as contemporary thrillers.

Third, what is the Hope’s Seven Deadly Sins series about, how is it connected, narratively and chronologically, to the Hope Sze Medical Crime series, and what makes the Thriller series different from the Mystery one?

At the end of the Hope Sze Medical Crime series, the novel White Lightning, Hope’s best friend, Tori, reveals that she can see ghosts. Thus begins Hope’s Seven Deadly Sins series, where the paranormal plays a role, and where each book focuses on a new deadly sin.

You can read any of the Hope books independently because a crime (often a murder or three) is established solved within each book, but if you’re organized and want to follow the characters and their relationships, you’d start at the beginning with Code Blues.

And then, finally, what is The Shapes Of Wrath about, and when and where does it take place, both in relation to our world and to White Lightning, the last book of the Hope Sze Medical Crime series?

White Lightning comes first, when doctors Hope and Tori and their boyfriends drive to a Prohibition hotel in Windsor for a weekend away. Ghosts haunt Tori, and Hope must solve three murders in three different centuries: 19th century England, 1920s Prohibition, and today at a mini Comic-Con convention at the hotel.

Next, in The Shapes Of Wrath, Hope returns to St. Joseph’s Hospital for her general surgery rotation in Montreal. St. Joe’s was always decrepit and mismanaged, but now Hope must battle a ghost and a surgeon so evil that he seems possessed, on top of finding a dead man at the back of the operating room.

Every Hope book is partly inspired by my own career as an emergency physician, so they’re all grounded in reality, but these two thrillers cross into paranormal territory.

Does this mean White Lightning is the last book of the Hope Sze Medical Crime series?


So, where did you get the idea for The Shapes Of Wrath?

After I finished White Lightning, I cast about for inspiration and reached out to a forensic psychiatrist who invited me on a tour of her hospital. I couldn’t figure out how to formulate it into a novel until I listened to the podcast Two Shrinks Pod on the seven deadly sins. I literally stopped walking my dogs and thought, “That’s it! I need to write about the seven deadly sins.”

General surgery is the most brutal (and funny) specialty to me. I dove straight into wrath.

The Shapes Of Wrath is a thriller. Says so right on the cover. But are there any other genres that are at work in this story as well?

Paranormal because of the ghosts. Amateur detective. Strong female protagonist, always. I love a good romance element too, though Hope starts off single in this series, and connecting with the right person is almost as tricky as medicine.

I’m also wondering, though, if this book might be…not funny, but maybe a little lighthearted. The title kind of hints that it might be. And I know it’s not an oversight because the second book of the Hope Sze Medical Crime series was Notorious D.O.C., which is also kind of cheeky.

Yeah, I find it quite hilarious in places. Not everyone understands the black humor in medicine, but Dr. Vrac is so evil and ridiculous, swearing and insulting everyone and congratulating himself on doing CrossFit at age 62, you have to laugh at him or you would die. Though unfortunately, you might die anyway.

Are there any writers, or stories, that you think had a big influence on Wrath but not on anything else you’ve written, and especially not any of the books in the Hope Sze Medical Crime series?

The title is obviously a play on The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck. However, you may not have read The Crêpes Of Wrath by Sarah Fox. I smile at cozy mystery’s punny titles. So my title is a meta joke on a joke, which I never do. The Hope Sze Medical Crime Series all had two word titles. This title announces a change in series.

I’d also read the New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities series on the seven deadly sins. I noted my favorite line from Wendy Wasserstein’s Sloth, who asks if you’re the woman who “works all day, makes a delicious low-carb meal for your family, does homework with your teenager, gives your husband a blow job, and then stays up to do the dishes?” Hint: don’t do this.

How about non-literary influences; was The Shapes Of Wrath influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?

I finally watched Se7en to make sure I hadn’t ripped it off. Luckily, I hadn’t. I couldn’t stop watching Squid Game, even though I worried it would traumatize my kids. Wednesday came out after I’d finished writing, but the humor feels similar to me, and the idea of a sane protagonist stuck in an insane world. For video games, I played Stardew Valley, but more for relaxation than for inspiration.

Now, we’ve been discussing how The Shapes Of Wrath is the first book in the Hope’s Seven Deadly Sins series. Is it safe to assume there will ultimately be seven of them?

Absolutely seven books for seven sins. The last will be pride, which was considered the most harmful because it took you the furthest away from God. Although I’m agnostic, the books do slowly ascend (or descend), in my mind.

And is the plan that these will ultimately be 7 tangentially-connected stand-alone novels, or will they actually form a heptalogy that people should read in order?

Heptalogy. This is the first time I’ve tried to plot out the entire series to build to one conclusion. You can always read any Hope Sze books independently, but for the seven deadly sins series, the story arc will culminate on the forensic psychiatry ward. Organized readers will enjoy knowing the previous villains for the final hard-hitting conclusion.

Also, do you know yet what any of the other books will be called and when they might be out?

The next thriller, Sugar & Vice, focuses on gluttony. It will release first on Kickstarter, ideally in September 2023 with a wide release for Christmas 2023.

Hollywood loves making movies about medical professionals, they love making thrillers, and they love making movies about jerks. Do you think The Shapes Of Wrath could work as a movie?

Yes, I’ve discussed movie and TV rights with a few studios. The Shapes Of Wrath makes sense as a taut thriller movie that you must watch from beginning to end, but TV has a lot more funding and platforms. We’ll see what happens.

So who would you want them to cast as Hope, Dr. Vrac, and the other main characters?

For Hope, I need a talented Asian actor who can handle the tension of saving a life with her medical license at stake, the off-the-wall humor, the loving but claustrophobic family ties, the friendship and romance in the bowels of the hospital, the ghost…full package. I’d happily cast Stephanie Hsu if she’s not too busy after Everything Everywhere All At Once.

I’m fortunate to have worked with the following Hope Szes: Nightingale has the intelligence, humor, and work ethic. She brought Hope alive for the online Winnipeg Fringe.

Shirley Manh is a likeable and funny Hope who will star in Terminally Ill (Hope Sze Medical Crime #3) onstage in the 2024 undercurrents festival.

Carmilla Jo brings The Shapes of Wrath audiobook to life, from the medical jargon to Dr. Vrac’s nastiness.

Jenny Kelly narrated the first three Hope Sze audiobooks for Kobo Originals, and I enjoy her warmth and humor, but would prefer an Asian actor if possible.

For Dr. Vrac, I want the intensity and intimidation of Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach in Watchmen.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about The Shapes Of Wrath?

Have fun. It’s a wild ride. I’ve had surgeons, anesthesiologists, and family doctors tear through it in one sitting. One said she had to shush her children so they wouldn’t bother her, and another said her body hurt the next day because she’d stayed up so late reading. Author Jamieson Wolf chose it for his year’s best list, and King’s River Life said it’s a strong contender for their year’s best.

Melissa Yi The Shapes Of Wrath Hope's Seven Deadly Sins Thriller Hope Sze Medical Crime

Finally, if someone enjoys The Shapes Of Wrath, they’ll probably go back and read the Hope Sze Medical Crime novels, if they haven’t already. But once they’ve done that, which of your other books would you suggest they read next?

If you like medicine: The Most Unfeeling Doctor In The World (And Other True Tales From The Emergency Room) kicks off an entire series of true medical stories.

If you like thrillers and paranormal: Wolf Ice. Someone is killing werewolves with a drug lure, starting with Leila’s best friend. Rated R for some hot sex scenes, but it’s my mother’s favorite of all my books. Go figure.

If you want travel and romance with your mysteries: The Italian School For Assassins. For Octavia’s 40th birthday, she hits assassin school. Peril. Passion. Pasta.



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