Wednesday, March 23, 2022

An Interview with Korina Moss by E. B. Davis


Who needs Xanax when you’ve got cheese?

Korina Moss, Cheddar Off Dead, Kindle Loc. 389


In Korina Moss's cozy series debut, Cheddar Off Dead, cheesemonger Willa Bauer discovers that her new home in a small Sonoma Valley town is ripe for murder... something here stinks to high heaven, and Willa knows it's not the cheese.

Cheesemonger Willa Bauer is proving that sweet dreams are made of cheese. She’s opened her very own French-inspired cheese shop, Curds & Whey, in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. The small town of Yarrow Glen is Willa's fresh start, and she's determined to make it a success – starting with a visit from the local food critic. What Willa didn’t know is that this guy never gives a good review, and when he shows up nothing goes according to plan. She doesn’t think the night can get any worse... until she finds the critic’s dead body, stabbed with one of her shop’s cheese knives. Now a prime suspect, Willa has always believed life’s problems can be solved with cheese, but she’s never tried to apply it to murder…


WWK Blogger Korina Moss’s debut book, Cheddar Off Dead, will be released next week on March 29th. Korina’s main character Willa Bauer is a likeable character. As the daughter of dairy farmers, she knows her milk products and has worked in the cheese industry. Opening her new cheese shop in Sonoma Valley should be easy. What better to eat with wine than good cheese?

 But Willa is the new shop owner in town. She’s lucky that her employees are knowledgeable about the townspeople because when she finds a murder victim’s body, she has to solve the case or land in jail. I especially liked Korina’s secondary characters who help her investigate.


Please welcome Korina Moss as my interviewee to WWK.     E. B. Davis


Yarrow Glen is in Sonoma Valley. It has a few wineries and farms surrounding it. Why hasn’t it made more of a name for itself?

Its roots are in dairy farming, so it’s more of a working-class town, whereas the towns with the vineyards and wineries tend to attract the tourists. I wanted Yarrow Glen to sort of mirror Willa’s journey—both are ready to blossom. Many of the characters that you’ll see throughout the series are also finding their footing, the same way Willa and Yarrow Glen are.  


Willa’s parents owned a dairy farm in Oregon. But Willa never was into farming. She made and sold cheese at an early age. What kind of cheese did she make to sell in farmers’ markets?

You’re right that she preferred the cheese-making aspect of their dairy farm, although she had to do plenty of farming growing up, since that was the family’s main source of income. The creamery was a smaller part of their dairy business. She eventually convinced her parents to let her sell mozzarella and ricotta at their local farmer’s markets.


I can understand why Willa didn’t return to live near her parents. They have sayings that come back to Willa in times of stress that I don’t think are very helpful. What are some of their sayings and how does Willa use them?

Willa’s parents are hardworking, humble farmers who always put in an honest day’s work, which is enough for them. Willa sees life a little differently, but their sensibilities still stick with her. When she remembers them saying things like, “It’s not about the outcome, it’s about the work,” or “We do our best and we don’t get upset,” they mean for her stay focused on the work she’s putting into something. You can’t control the outcome or how others perceive what you do. This helps her when she’s nervous about whether the magazine critic will like her shop. It gives her confidence that the critic’s judgement won’t change how great Curds & Whey is.


Why didn’t Willa know that the food critic, Guy Lippinger, rarely gave good reviews to Yarrow Glen venues?

The book begins in Willa’s cheese shop, which readers learn has been barely open two weeks. She’s just moved to Yarrow Glen and opened her shop. She’s never lived in northern California before and hadn’t been familiar with All Things Sonoma magazine, which is where Guy Lippinger’s reviews are published.


One of your characters, Roman, owns a meadery across from Willa’s shop. What is mead?

Mead is an alcoholic beverage somewhere between wine and beer. Whereas wine is made from grapes, and beer from barley, mead’s base is honey. It’s brewed and fermented like beer, but its alcohol content is about the same as wine. Also like wine, it can be produced in a variety of sweetness levels, from very dry to sweet, and can be still or sparkling.  It can also be brewed with grains, fruit, spices, or hops to give it many different flavors. Over the last few years, meaderies have been popping up all over the U.S.


Roman attracts Willa. But she doesn’t approve of her own feelings. Why?

Willa enjoys flirting with Roman, but he’s known for being a serial dater. Willa was burned by love badly once, so she needs a certain level of trust before she’ll allow herself to really fall for someone.


Willa incorporates her store promotions with sleuthing. What promotions has she created?

The most successful one is the Cheese Hunt. It’s a game where customers get a fun fact about a type of cheese, and they search for which cheese it describes. When they find the right one, they get a discount. It was a fun way to add some cheese trivia into the book and it was also an important scene to ensure all the townspeople were in her shop that day.


Willa has a cheese making class, which interested me. What cheese were they making?

They were making fresh mozzarella from curds, which is how all cheese starts. (The whey is the liquid it floats in.) All mozzarella gets stretched, which prevents the proteins from breaking. If they break, it alters the texture. Anybody can make their own mozzarella and some cheese shops have cheese-making classes like the one in my book.


Sixty-something Mrs. Schultz was a favorite of mine. Please describe her to our readers. She has some particular notions!

I’m glad you enjoyed Mrs. Schultz. It’s fun to write her. She’s a retired high school drama teacher “smack-dab” in her sixties, who was looking for her next chapter after being widowed. She rides a retro bicycle to work and I describe her appearance as “an updated Lucy Ricardo, but with the curly blonde hair of her sidekick, Ethel.” She prefers to be called Mrs. Schultz rather than by her first name, but don’t let that fool you into thinking she’s stuffy or formal otherwise. She’s unconventional, loyal, whip smart, and always up for the next adventure to take her out of her ‘comfort zone.’


Who is Loretta?

Willa isn’t home often enough to have a dog or a cat, so she has Loretta, a fluorescent red and blue Betta fish. But, according to Willa, she’s not just any fish—she’s a fish with attitude and particular preferences, such as having a favorite TV show.


Toilet guy’s real name is Baz Tooney and lives next door. Why does Willa take a liking to him?

He’s the first one to arrive after Willa discovers a dead body, so they’re bonded in that way. He also reminds her of her younger brother, who she misses. There’s not any physical attraction to their relationship, just a fast friendship.


What is the cheese trail website?

The cheese trail is a map of cheese shops and creameries in California. You can work your way up the coast, tasting and buying cheese. When people think of northern California, their image is wine country, but it also has a long dairy farming history. If you plan a trip to visit wineries in Sonoma or Napa Valleys, check out the cheese trail too. What’s better than wine and cheese?


Like wine, do some cheeses have province?

Some cheeses must be made in a certain region and only have certain ingredients in order to be labeled that type of cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of these cheeses. It’s not just a fancy name for Parmesan. It must be made with only three ingredients: milk, calf rennet, and salt, and it’s solely made in the regions of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the left of the Reno river, and Mantua to the right of the Po river in Italy. Their website is beautiful and fascinating if you want to see how it’s been made for the last thousand years.


When Willa makes fondue in her store, she melts three cheeses together. I thought fondue always had wine added to thin the cheese. Is that wrong?

When Willa makes cheesy dishes, I don’t list every step, so as not to bog down the book with too many cooking details. With that scene, I mention that the three cheeses are the base for the fondue. Plus, one of characters, Archie, was partaking and he’s not yet 21, so I didn’t want to get into trouble with any readers by specifically adding wine. The fondue recipe is one of the recipes in the back of the book. It includes wine, but you can make it without wine and use chicken broth and lemon juice instead.


Willa and her two employees use different methods to dip the bread into the cheese mixture. Is this symbolic of their sleuthing styles?

For sure. Archie goes in for the full dunk, which is indicative of his all-in method of investigation. Mrs. Schultz, on the other hand, tends to ask more questions while they’re trying to figure out whodunit, and how she takes her time by dabbing her bread to coat it in the fondue is analogous to this.


Like yogurt, were many cheeses discovered by accident?

Cheese predates recorded history, but it is thought to have been discovered by accident. In my research, I did come across some types of cheeses that were produced accidentally, such as Tilsit cheese. It was made by accident when the Dutch, settling in East Prussia, were trying to recreate Gouda (which originated in the Netherlands). The caves of that area where it was aging were damp and infected it with unintended molds, yeasts, and bacteria, which created a new cheese they named after the town.  


What type of certification do you need to be a cheesemonger?

It’s a rigorous standard. You must have 4,000 hours of documented experience (paid or unpaid) in the cheese profession or 2,000 hours of experience and 2,000 hours in cheese-related formal education. Then you must pass an exam given by the American Cheese Society (ACS), much like the bar exam for law school graduates. In addition, you can also get a sensory certification. That exam requires you to be able to evaluate cheeses by using your senses, similar to how a sommelier would be tested for their knowledge of wine. An example of a past exam question: test-takers were asked to identify 10 vials of milk based on scent alone. 


What’s next for Willa and her employees?


Gone for Gouda, the second book in the Cheese Shop Mystery series, comes out in September. Here’s the jacket description:


Things are going from gouda to bad to ugly for cheesemonger Willa Bauer in Gone for Gouda.

Yarrow Glen’s newest cheese shop, Curds & Whey, has a lot on its plate, but cheesemonger Willa Bauer relishes a challenge. There’s a float to build for the fall festival, plus the French-inspired cheese shop is playing host to celebrity vegan chef Phoebe Winston. But when photos surface that prove this vegan influencer is, in fact, a carnivore, things crumble faster than any cheese on the market: Phoebe is murdered. Willa’s employee, the affable Archie, was the last one to see Phoebe alive and the first person the police suspect. To clear his name Willa must uncover who’s been up to no gouda...




  1. Congratulations, Korina, on the publication of your book. It sounds like a delicious story, and I look forward to reading it. It will probably cause me to gain a few pounds since it will surely whet my appetite for cheese.

  2. Congratulations on your debut novel publication, Korina. Wishing you and it all the best together.

  3. Congratulations, Korina. Love your topic, and your book sounds wonderful. Best of luck with it!

  4. Oh, congratulations! The book sounds delightful and I’m looking forward to a great read.

  5. Congrats! Looking forward to reading your series.

  6. Korina,
    Congratulations on the publication of your debut mystery. I must admit, I'm addicted to cheese so I'm looking forward to reading CHEDDAR OFF DEAD.

  7. Delightful! Big congratulations, Korina! May it fly off the shelves!

  8. Thanks, everyone, for your well wishes. And thank you, Elaine, for the interview!
    Cheers to Cheese!