So Ben Messina, noted mathematician and romantic hero, welcome to the blog. Thanks for coming along. First things first, tell us about that name – I’m guessing you’re not originally from Yorkshire.
Actually I am. I lived in Whitby for eighteen years and then moved to York. My mum and dad are Italian though.
So the Italians have a reputation for being a very passionate nation. Do you think that applies to you?
Well, erm, I’m not sure.
[At this point Ben starts to look around a bit nervously.]
Erm, what’s this interview for?
It’s for the Choc Lit blog – about the book you’re in.
Yes. About my book. It’s about zero. Zero is the most fascinating number you know. It’s completely different from any other integer. Do you know that the Romans didn’t even have a concept of zero? Neither did the Greeks. Pythagoras, himself…
The triangle guy?
That’s right – he never accepted that nothing could be a thing.
I did not know that. But that’s not what the interview’s about. It’s about the book you’re in.
The book you’re in – Much Ado About Sweet Nothing. You’re the hero.
What do you mean, hero? Like the men on the front of those books they have in the library – the ones with worrying hair and no shirt on.
Well not exactly like that, but it’s about love and romance and, well, you.
No. You must have got that wrong. Now my brother, Claudio, he’s more the romantic hero type. He’s completely smitten in fact with this girl Henrietta. It’s sickening. I’ve tried to explain to him that infatuation is all just a matter of brain chemistry, and it’ll inevitably pass given time, but he won’t listen. He even has the romantic hero tall, dark look. He goes to the gym and everything. It’s not right.
So you’ve never been in love.
Not even when you were younger. There wasn’t ever a girl who got away.
Well, there was one girl. She was different, I suppose. Anyway, that was a really long time ago.
And you never wonder about going back?
You can’t go back. Deciding whether to be with someone is an all or nothing thing. You can’t just flip and change. It’s nothing or everything. [He laughs.]
Nothing or everything. That’s what my book’s about. I’m much happier talking about that to be honest. Love and romance aren’t my thing. I could tell you about infinity, if you want. Infinity is all encompassing. You can’t break it or make it smaller whatever you do to it. Infinity is everything. It’s bigger than all of us.
A bit like love then?
Well no. I mean love is just a neurological or psychological response to a specific human mate, based on the evolutionary imperative to reproduce and…
[Ben keeps talking. I wonder if he’d notice if I sidled away.]