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Who Is Playing This Game?

Omar Imady Author Interview

Catfishing Caitlyn explores the thrilling journey of a brilliant yet aimless Ph.D. graduate who, while unraveling enigmatic historical riddles, inadvertently uncovers the hidden traumas of her own past. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

The simplest answer is that I’m not really sure! The story arrives, so to speak, as is the case with almost all the stories I write, and I find myself rushing to put it to paper before it leaves me. 

If I were to dig a little deeper though, I would confess that the exploration of historical archives has always captivated me. As a historian by training, I spent most of my university years with my nose in dusty pages (long before there were digital archives!), and I was constantly astounded by the gems I found hidden deep in the lines that filled the library shelves. I wondered how much of ourselves we might find if we only looked closely. 

Caitlyn is an intriguing and well-developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I grew up around strong and powerful women. My mother, my grandmother, my two sisters, and my seven aunts were all fascinating to observe and listen to, and essentially incredibly inspiring. What I love most about them is how indifferent these women were to how they were perceived by others. I grew up at a time and in a culture when this type of indifference was predominantly a male privilege. But in my family, it was the women who were eccentric and lived life entirely on their terms. I think I am constantly recreating these women in many different manifestations in my novels.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I am possessed by the idea that something, which is at times referred to as ‘God’, though I would rather not describe it in such terms, appears to be interacting with us — pulling us and pushing us, and ultimately communicating with us. In this novel, something is communicating with Caitlyn, and is doing so through the very object of her desire, namely, her love for history and research. She is lured into what appears to be a game of academic skill only to find herself unexpectedly confronting her own childhood trauma. In a similar manner, I have often found myself pulled towards certain destinations only for them to unfold in a manner very different to that which I’d anticipated, perpetually leaving me with the question: who is playing this game?

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next novel, Erasures, is scheduled to be published in October. I actually completed this book some time ago, along with several others that will follow it. It’s a post-apocalyptic story that focuses on the life of a man who works at one of the last libraries on earth. He is shocked one day to witness the disappearance of words from texts, sacred texts it turns out, first from digital versions but eventually from paper copies as well. It’s both a thriller as well as an exploration of the complexities of humanity’s spiritual past and future.

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Welcome to the game, Caitlyn.
Password required.
Hint: If you’re not smart enough to guess the password, you’re not smart enough to play.
Gifted with an extraordinary mind, a ravenous appetite for knowledge, food, and women, Caitlyn thrives on challenges.
Despite having just finished a highly specialized PhD in Middle Eastern History, with an impressive array of potential careers ahead of her – from intelligence agencies to Ivy League posts – Caitlyn finds herself spiraling, unable to make her next move. She is at a loss, suspended on a precipice of uncertainty, a feeling reminiscent only of being abandoned by her mother many years ago.
But then, in her last hours as a student at Yale, she receives a mysterious invitation. One she cannot refuse. Selected by a panel of twelve of the world’s greatest minds in her field, Caitlyn is invited to play a game – a unique contest of knowledge based on a series of expertly crafted questions. The stakes? Incredible rewards or instant elimination.
The search for answers takes Caitlyn on a journey from Jerusalem to Tibet, Arabia to Mesopotamia, Christie’s auction house in London to the Four Seasons hotel in Istanbul. But, as she continues to follow the clues and her investigation into historical archives deepens, she is unexpectedly pulled further into the mystery of her own traumatic past.
The challenge of winning the game quickly escalates into a mission of uncovering who, or what, is asking the questions, and why.

Catfishing Caitlyn

Omar Imady’s Catfishing Caitlyn is an exhilarating and refreshing thriller that engages readers from its compelling opening to its dramatic culmination. The novel encapsulates an immersive journey marked by Imady’s exceptional prose and vibrant descriptiveness, immersing readers into the core of the developing narrative. Catfishing Caitlyn takes its readers on a suspenseful voyage, maintaining constant intrigue as they maneuver through a complex maze of unexpected developments. Consistent with Imady’s past literary contributions, this narrative explores the profound human encounter with isolation and the relentless quest for significance in an increasingly adversarial world that resists clear-cut resolutions.

Central to this narrative is the character of Caitlyn O’Keefe, a distinguished Ph.D. scholar from Yale. Her portrayal as a resilient, captivating, and compelling protagonist ensures readers’ full investment in her narrative. Caitlyn’s extraordinary intellect and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge allow her to flourish in demanding circumstances. Yet, just when life seems to corner her with disillusionment, an intriguing invitation to engage in an enigmatic game presents itself, challenging her cognitive and emotional boundaries. This unconventional contest involves a sequence of skillfully devised questions with high stakes, enticing rewards for correct responses, and instant dismissal for wrong ones. However, the pursuit of a victory rapidly evolves into an intense mission to uncover the mysterious entity posing these questions and decipher its underlying motives. In addition, Caitlyn’s poignant past resurfaces, infusing additional layers of fascination and emotional depth to her noteworthy journey.

While the narrative is primarily based in the United States, Caitlyn’s tireless quest for truth drives her to traverse diverse locales worldwide. From the time-honored streets of Jerusalem to the mystical terrains of Tibet, from the vast Arabian deserts to the historical landscapes of Mesopotamia, and even to the renowned Christie’s auction house in London and the opulent Four Seasons hotel in Istanbul, her journey is truly global.

Imady’s remarkable novel is an essential read for aficionados of suspense-filled psychological thrillers, complex familial narratives, and assertive female protagonists. I recommend Catfishing Caitlyn to any reader searching for a captivating literary adventure that will leave them mesmerized.


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The Celeste Experiment

Get ready for a journey of science, religion, spirituality, and emotion. The Celeste Experiment almost feels like an experience rather than a story. Omar Imady takes the reader on a trip across the globe and leaves them wondering about some of the greatest unknowns, much like Michael’s experiment in the book. After losing his wife and his faith, he dedicates his life to a unique project. Hamida finds herself as the test subject, and the reader joins her as she endures each arduous stage. The unpredictability of the storyline and one last shocking twist leave the reader in a state of awe long after finishing the book. 

The Celeste Experiment was unlike any book I have ever read. I felt like I was peeling back the layers of the story with every page. Every discovery I made brought another question. Omar Imady keeps the reader in the dark, like Hamida during the experiment. I loved the suspense and the feeling of connecting the dots.

Omar Imady writes in such a beautiful way, and I was captivated from the very first moment. From his descriptions of the lush, lonely English countryside to the flavors and aromas of the rich Indian dishes, his words have the ability to immerse the reader into any setting.

The Celeste Experiment holds many secrets, and I feel as though I would have discovered more if I had a better knowledge of Islam. I enjoyed the way in which Omar Imady made the reader uncover the story for themselves, but I was left with a couple of loose ends when I finished. However, the uncertainty of the story is balanced by the constant calmness of Hamida’s character. She had such a warmth about her, and the reader cannot help but be inspired, regardless of their beliefs.


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