Interview with novelist Mark Morey

My special
interview guest today is Mark Morey.
We’re chatting about his historical fiction, The Last Great Race.

During his
virtual book tour, Mark will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s
choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance
to win, use the form below. To
increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit
his other tour stops
and enter there, too.

Writing technical documentation
and advertising material formed a large part of my career for many
decades. Writing a novel didn’t cross my
mind until relatively recently, where the combination of too many years writing
dry, technical documents and a visit to the local library where I couldn’t find
a book that interested me led me consider a new pastime. Write a book. That
book may never be published, but I felt my follow-up cross-cultural crime with
romance hybrid set in Russia had more potential. So much so that I wrote a sequel
that took those characters on a journey to a very dark place.
Once those books were
published by Club Lighthouse and garnered good reviews I wrote in a very
different place and time. My two novels
set in Victorian Britain were published by Wings ePress in July and August of
2014. These have been followed by a story set against the background of
Australia’s involvement on the Western Front, published in August 2015.
Australia’s contribution to the battles on the Western Front and to ultimate
victory is a story not well known, but should be better known.

Staying within the realm of
historical fiction, one of the most successful sportsmen of the 1930s, Achille
Varzi, lived a dramatic and tumultuous life. 
It is a wonder his story hasn’t been told before, beyond non fiction
written in Italian. The Last Great Race
follows the highs and lows of Varzi’s motor racing career, and stays in fascist
Italy during the dark days of World War Two.

Welcome, Mark. Please share a little bit
about your current release.

This is a fictionalised account of a real-life story that seems too incredible
to be true, only it is. Achille Varzi was the most successful of his time; hero
to his followers; worshipped by the women in his life; driven to succeed. This
story is told partly through the eyes of Varzi and partly by fictional Italian-Australian
journalist Paul Bassi. We follow the many triumphs and tragedies of Varzi’s
life: his passionate love affairs, his tragic addictions, his recovery, his
marriage and his re-signing to race once more. Set in fascist Italy in the
1930s, we are part of the inexorable grind towards World War Two, where Italy
is an ally of Germany, until the devastation becomes too much and the country
slides towards civil war. Italy in World War Two and the civil war which
followed is a story not well known, but is quite interesting.

What inspired you to write this book?
I have followed Formula One car racing since the early 1970s, and through that
I was aware of the story of Achille Varzi, a good driver of the 1930s, until
his private life got in the way of his racing career. When I looked into the
facts about Varzi I didn’t realise that he was the best racer in a legendary
era, certainly one of the best of all time, and that his love affair with Ilse
was so passionate and ultimately so destructive. I thought that passionate
love, the tragedy that came out of it, and his recovery with the help of Norma
who came back into his life, made a great story. Norma Colombo was a woman
against the odds. She lived with Achille Varzi unmarried when women didn’t do
that, and when Achille broke up with Ilse she came back to him. That was just
as amazing as anything that happened between Achille and Ilse. One man and two
women who adored him completely, totally and absolutely.

Excerpt from The Last Great Race:
Achille lit a cigarette and pulled Le Ambizioni Sbagliate from his luggage. He
sighed while he momentarily contemplated nights in hotel rooms. It was always better when Norma accompanied
him or when his friends were around. But racing had changed and the cost of
developing new cars meant fewer entries, and fewer drivers at the circuits. He
took the comfortable velvet armchair in the corner of the room and turned to
the first page, when he was startled by knocking at the door. Achille put the
book down and opened the door to be surprised by Ilse Pietsch. Momentarily
startled he then realised she ought not to be seen there. “Ilse,” he said. “Entrez,
s’il tu plais.”
“I saw your times
from practice today,” Ilse said in French after she closed the door behind her.
“They were good.”
Achille nodded
while puzzled to have her in his room.
“That isn’t why I
came here,” she said. “All the time you were practicing I thought about your
comment on Tazio Nuvolari. I know that any driver can drive fast, and any driver
can drive on his limits and perhaps crash and break his leg, or even kill
himself. A great driver and an even greater man is the man who knows where his
strengths and weaknesses lay, and how far he can go to achieve his ambitions
without going too far.”
Achille stood
stunned with his cigarette hanging from his lips. It was as if she peered into
his soul. Just like that.
“Achille?” she
“Pardon?” Achille
said, still confused. He looked at her eye to eye for she was almost as tall as
he. “You understand me,” he said quietly.
“So I’m right.”
“You knew you were
“I wanted to hear
it from you.”
“You’re a great man
more than a great driver, and I know you have been misunderstood. I heard talk
of arrogance but they don’t understand you. You’re a deep thinker who analyses
all the options before deciding on a course of action.”
Achille was again
startled. Ilse knew more, much more, about him than his racing. He wondered how
she could do that, and especially a woman so young.
Their conversation
faded to silence and Achille suddenly felt an intense ache of desire for
beautiful Ilse Pietsch. A yearning, a longing, an almost overpowering urge to
grab her and take her away and ravish her. He never felt such strong feelings
before and he liked them. He liked them a lot. And yet she was unobtainable. Perhaps
that was it. She understood him and yet he couldn’t have her. His heart raced
and he felt sweaty despite the pleasant temperature. No, such feelings were
something else and he guessed what it was. After two brief meetings he had
fallen in love with another man’s wife. He didn’t love Norma and never had, but
he never expected to find love in a hotel in Montlhéry. He butted his cigarette
in the ashtray and all the time Ilse stood there, close but not too close, and
Achille knew the significance of that. He wondered, but it was too far too
fast. For many years he wanted to kiss those lips, but he knew if he started he
wouldn’t be able to stop. He gazed at beautiful Ilse Pietsch, he smelt her soft
perfume, and he knew he shouldn’t.
“You should go
before people realise,” Achille said.
“Of course,” Ilse
She left his room
and quietly closed the door behind to leave Achille pondering whether he should
have asked her to stay.

What exciting story are you working on

My next story stays in Italy but in renaissance Venice where, in the year 1428,
a young woman created a major scandal that rocked Venetian society to the core.
That story is intertwined with sub-plots based upon oppression of gay men and
oppression of women. I have completed a first draft of The Adulterous Bride but
I still have a way to go.

When did you first consider yourself
a writer?

I considered myself a writer when Club Lighthouse published my novel The Red Sun Will Come in 2012.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?

I work part-time and this gives me sufficient time to write, and to undertake
publicity tasks. Publicity is a very important part of writing. My working day
depends on the project I am working on, but typically is two or three hours a
day for three or four days per week.

What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
My quirk is to look for the unusual which has not been written about
before, or to mix genres up by putting, for example, crime with romance. This
gives me a unique voice, but it makes it harder to tell potential readers what
these stories are really about.

As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?

I had a difficult upbringing where I was more intent on survival than on the

Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?

I hope those who like a good story will try The
Last Great Race
. The real-life characters and events are almost larger than
life, although true to life, while the era, leading up to and spanning World
War Two in Italy, is quite fascinating. I have not seen a story anything like
this one, and I think it has much to offer to readers of fiction.

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