Monday, April 11, 2022



I started crafting my proposal for a cheese shop cozy mystery series in March of 2019. Covid-19 had recently hit the U.S. and we knew virtually nothing about it. What better way to hide from the scary place the world had become than to hang out in my imagination with copious amounts of cheese? 

The previous three years had been filled with major life changes for me—my marriage had ended, I’d reached a pivotal birthday, and I’d risked financial stability to fully pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a published author. So perhaps it’s not surprising that my protagonist, cheesemonger Willa Bauer, is also facing new beginnings in Cheddar Off Dead. Having spent the last ten years avoiding the heartaches of her past, Willa finally commits to settling down… in a new town, that is—to follow her dream of owning a cheese shop. Yarrow Glen is where she’s drawn to, an out-of-the-way small town in Sonoma Valley with dairy farming roots, often overshadowed by the surrounding upscale vineyard towns. I like to root for an underdog, and Willa and Yarrow Glen are both on the verge of blossoming, despite unexpected challenges. 

As much as I love cheese, my knowledge was certainly not in the league of any cheesemonger. What’s a cheesemonger, you ask? Simply put, it’s a person who studies cheese. To be certified as a cheesemonger, you must have four thousand hours of work experience in the cheese profession as well as pass a rigorous test. As much as I strive to get the details right in my books, I couldn’t commit to that level of research. To (mis)quote Star Trek’s Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy, “Dammit Jim, I’m a writer, not a cheese expert.” Where was I to start? 

I started where I do with any book—the murder mystery, which includes my protagonist Willa, my quirky sidekick characters, a possible love interest, a good-looking detective, the victim, and the suspects. Oh, and a flamboyant betta fish named Loretta. As I worked on the synopsis and first three chapters for my proposal, I moved Willa into a cozy apartment above her shop where she becomes fast friends with her next-door neighbor Baz. Her new employees become loyal friends and co-sleuths: Nineteen-year-old Archie is almost as enthusiastic about making cheese his passion as he is in earning enough money to move out of his mom’s house. Mrs. Schultz, who is “smack dab” in her sixties and prefers to be called Mrs. Schultz, is a widow who leaves retirement and her comfort zone to work at the shop. The others in town? Well, that’s where the murder suspects come in. 

Since I was creating a town from scratch, I made it a place I’d like to live in and hoped my readers would feel the same, so my fictional Yarrow Glen is filled with small locally-owned businesses. Along with Willa’s cheese shop, Curds & Whey, some of the other shops are Rise and Shine Bread Bakery, Lou’s Market, Read More Bookstore, Golden Glen Meadery, Apricot Grille, and The Inn at Yarrow Glen which also houses the local hangout, The Cellar. When I finished having fun with names and places, I was finally able to concentrate on the cheese. 

The good news/bad news of writing a cheese-centric mystery is the abounding variety of cheeses to choose from. Since Curds & Whey is a French-inspired cheese shop, I wondered if I should start with a French cheese. Or should I go with a cheddar, since its name is in the proposed book’s title? Ultimately, I started with an Italian cheese because it fit the recipe I had in mind. Did I mention I included easy-cheesy recipes in the back of the book? They’re the same ones Willa makes within the story. Readers will also come across fun facts about cheese too. For instance, I learned that the Swiss cheese Kaltbach Le Crémeux is named for the river that runs through the twenty-two-million-year-old sandstone caves near Lucerne where it’s aged. How cool is that? My hope is that by the time my readers have discovered who the murderer is, they’ll also have discovered a new or renewed passion for cheese. 

Three weeks after I started, I turned in my proposal to my agent. About a week after that, she called to tell me St. Martin’s Press had offered me a contract to write the series. Just like Willa, I’d taken a leap and my dream was now coming true. As we all know, the pandemic has unfortunately lingered on. I’ve spent the time researching and writing the initial books in my cheese shop series and still eating copious amounts of cheese. So far, it’s gotten me through. 


KORINA MOSS is the author of the Cheese Shop cozy mystery series set in Sonoma Valley. She loves creating quirky characters who live in idyllic small towns, and she lives in a small New England town with its own share of quirky characters.

1 comment:

susan kuchinskas said...

What a great origin story. I liked that you walked us through your thought process.