When Raj opens the door of his home on a rainy Oregon night, he immediately wants to adopt the bedraggled cat he finds on his step. Little does he know, the forlorn kitty that streaks past his ankle and into his life is an evil alien warlord cat bent on teleporting back to his home planet, exacting revenge on his nemesis General Ffangg, and taking back his empire.

That’s the setup for a new series of middle grade books from writing duo Johnny Marciano and Portlander Emily Chenoweth, the first two of which will be released by Penguin on February 25. 

Klawde, Evil Alien Warlord Cat, is exiled 2,900.4 million light years away from his home planet Lyttyrboks, but is planning his return and plotting revenge against the feline traitors. Set in the fictional town of Elba, Oregon, the hilarious, thumbless Klawde and his would-be human pawn and best friend Raj spend their days building a teleporter, dodging bullies, and monitoring the Intra-Universal Feline News Feed—in between naps, of course. (Don’t worry, dog lovers: There’s a tail-wagging pup in the third book.)

Marciano, who lives in Headquarters, New Jersey, hatched the idea on an unusually sunny February day in Oregon some four years ago. The author of several books, including the Witches of Benevento series and Madeline in the White House, Marciano brought up the idea while at a playground with his former neighbor Chenoweth (they were there with their respective kids).

Chenoweth, author of the novel Hello Goodbye (she also co-wrote eight bestselling books with James Patterson under the name Emily Raymond), at first laughed at the idea. But the friends had been looking for a joint project for 20 years—why not make it about an evil alien warlord cat? As for writing a book together while living thousands of miles apart? No problem, she says. “We’re probably in contact five times a day,” says Chenoweth. “We trade documents back and forth, we talk on the phone, we text, we email.” Marciano agrees. “We’re actually more productive across the country than when we’re in the same place,” he says.

Publishing giant Penguin snapped up the series, and the authors are currently writing the fourth book. “A lot of the humor is looking at what humans do from an outside [feline] perspective,” says Marciano, “and just thinking how ludicrous it is that we wear clothes, take showers, or sleep.

And, as Klawde discovers, that we kiss our animals. “I watched in horror as its huge mouth came right at my head. It was going to EAT me! . . . The Human put its lips to my fur and made a loud smacking sound. And then it—it let me go. What did this mean?”

For these and more of the great mysteries in the life of a deposed alien emperor cat, grab the first two installments (winningly illustrated by Robb Mommaerts), or hear it straight from the protagonist himself below.

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