Blog Archive

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Introducing my Good Friend and Debut Picture Book Author, Kris Tarantino

Today's interview is with an author who has been a great critique partner of mine that I've known for years. I've always been a fan of her writing and pleased to introduce you to her debut children's picture book, so please read on...

How did you come up with the story idea?  
The idea for Be My ValenSLIME came together after years of experiencing people who repeatedly demonstrated a lack or void of love and kindness. I found myself saying, This doesn’t feel like love. What’s love anyway? Then the idea of exploring What’s love anyway kept rolling around in my head, which led me to 1Corinthians13, the love chapter of the Bible. And I thought what better way to get down to the kid-level on the topic of ‘love’ than with the opposite kind of character—a mash-up of monsters (typically viewed as a nasty unloving group). But they all couldn’t be monster-y. Then Snoodle burst on the page, along with the fun title, and the rest was history.

As I developed the story, I knew I wanted it filled with humor and heart. So, the funny rambunctious monsters who “DON’T DO Valentine’s Day” provided the chaos and silliness, and the kind, patient, forgiving Snoodle provided the heart-part showing kids the application of love.

 The story brings together the definition of everyday love on a kid-to-kid friendship level in an easy-to-understand narrative that shows children how their words and actions—knitted together with love—can influence others in a positive, healthy way. 

What was the manuscript like when you sent it in? 

The story of the manuscript goes like this—I met both my agent and editor at an online Christian writer’s conference (Covid time). During my One-on-One with the editor, I chose to spend my time pitching her as many of my stories as time would allow. I wanted to gauge her interest on each story because we all know that writers are only allowed to send one manuscript to a faculty member post-conference. It turns out she was looking for holiday books and lit up when I pitched Be My ValenSLIME. She asked me to send her the manuscript post-conference (which I did). And then said they only work with agented authors. Gulp. I told her I was working on that.

Post-conference, I signed with my agent. Hooray! As this was happening, the editor got back to me and said there was internal interest and would I be willing to revise and resend? Then reminded me that they only work with agented authors. I replied that yes, I’d be happy to do an R&R, and told her I just signed with an agent!

 My agent and I went through two months of revisions. We also put together a 15-page Book Proposal. After the R&R and Book Proposal were sent, the editor said she took it to an acquisitions meeting. The group was very interested, but no offer, yet. They wanted to see more storylines developed with Snoodle and the monsters. There was talk of making this into a picture book series, maybe, no promises. Did I hear that right? A possible series?!

I had to think of 6-8 additional story summaries. I’d never done this before, but I was determined to try. So, after another 4 weeks, the series ideas were done and sent. Shortly after that we received a formal offer! Even though the offer ended up being for one book (and not a series) the acquisitions group still thought a series was a future possibility.

How many of your book pitches were sent to your publisher before they picked up this story? 

Be My ValenSLIME was the first story they saw, but I've sent out dozens more to other publishers before this one was accepted.

You’ve written numerous picture books. Is this the one you thought would be picked up first by a publisher?
Yes! I knew I hit on something—the hooky title, love, slime, valentines, Snoodle who loves everything, and her grumpy monster friends.

How much of the story changed during the editorial process? 

 You’re not the illustrator. Did the illustrator meet or exceed your expectations? 
Cori Doerrfeld exceeded my expectations! Once the manuscript was ready for art, my editor asked me to put together a list of illustrators who I thought would be a perfect fit for the story. I was shocked. Afterall, it’s well-known in the industry that the author doesn’t pick the illustrator, the art director and editor do. 

I was honored and delighted they asked for my input, even if they decided to pick someone else. So, I poured over all my favorite picture books and put together a list of illustrators, including why I liked their style, and how it could best fit Snoodle and her monster friends.

And here’s the cool part. My editor put together a list, too. And Cori Doerrfeld was on both of our lists! How amazing is that? I love it. And, it turns out that one of Cori’s favorite things to draw is… you guessed it—monsters!  

 Cori created the perfect monsters! I couldn’t be happier. As soon as I saw the rough sketches I shouted, “Yes! These are awesome!” Snoodle was adorable. And the other monsters were each distinctly different, so kids could easily remember them.

Are you working on a second book?
I’m always working on several picture book manuscripts, including one with these monsters.

What promotions will your publisher provide? 
I have an awesome marketing and P.R. team at WaterBrook/Random House. Their plans include advertising, giveaways, social media platforms, online marketing, academic/library marketing, a pre-pub campaign, valentine’s campaign, influencer and outreach, and various planned publicity. They also created a ‘Sneak Peek’ of the first six story spreads, which are on my website– In addition, they are working with Cori on creating coloring book art and bookmarks.

One special P.R. event will be held through the Writing Barn in Austin, TX. Cori and I are doing a free Zoom Book Birthday Interview in late January with Owner & Founder, Bethany Hegedus. Bethany is moderating a 1-hour Zoom event, free for anyone interested (hopefully your readers get the Writing Barn emails!) I’ll read the story and talk about the writing process. Cori will talk about character creation and her illustration process, and anything else Bethany asks us. There will also be Q&A and a book giveaway.

I contacted several author bloggers (like you, Chris 😊) for interviews, which include a book giveaway. In addition, I joined a picture book launch group – The BusyPB’s. I also contacted author friends and asked them to post reviews on Goodreads, B&N, and Amazon. I put together an Influencer list for my publisher. And I booked author visits at schools. 

What the best writing advice you could offer?

Perseverance is #1. In addition, learn your craft. Draft new story ideas. Love revision. Surround yourself with other kid-lit writers. Ask questions. Be open to critique feedback. Attend writing conferences. Listen to kid-lit webinars. Submit your work. Embrace R&R’s. Stretch into new directions. And one more thing – Be ready for a little luck! 

 My debut book was published 13 years after I started writing, 8 years after I became serious about writing. It will happen! 

That's all for today's interview. I hope you will check out Kris's website, there is a lot of good info there on writing and all the promotions she has scheduled. Her book is available as an eBook and Hardcover on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You can also find it on, Aslan Books, The Twig Book Shop, Book People, Hudson Booksellers, and WaterBrook.

Kris's Website:

And here's a special bonus for my readers...Leave a comment on this post with a question for Kris or simply say you'd like to win her book. Next Tuesday, we will choose one lucky reader to get a hardcover copy of her book. So what are you waiting for? Do it now!


  1. I love children’s books and this holiday one is adorable. I would love to read it with my granddaughter. As a former elementary and preschool teacher this would be an amazing book to have in the classroom.

    1. Please include your name, web name, or facebook name so I can add it to the giveaway

  2. I am a new picture book author. My first book is out on submission. I would love to read your new book to my grandchildren. I loved what you shared in the above interview. Wishing you all the best!!!!!

  3. Please include your name, web name, or facebook name so I can contact you if you are the winner in this giveaway

  4. This looks like a great book and I love the lesson behind it!

    1. Do you do other holiday ones too? Thank you for sharing this book Christine!

  5. Congratulations, Ren! You'll be getting a hardcover copy of this book!