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Feed Your Head: Jonathan Blake Fostar

Read the winning entry from our Short Story competition - inspired by N*Sync lyrics

Just over two months ago we launched a competition to find the best, undiscovered writing talent. We were inundated, with over two hundred short story submissions that our panel of author judges – including Dazed favourites, Evie Wyld and Matthias “Wolfboy” Connor – had the pleasure of reading. The standard was high, with perhaps only this emerging as a piece of general advice: speak plain, use what you know and get it across to your reader in the simplest (and therefore, boldest) possible terms. Try to lighten up, not be so consciously ‘literary’ and where appropriate, be funny. Employ a bit of Vonnegut-esque life-writing, if you know what we mean.

One author who did just that was our winner Jonathan Blake Fostar, whose tale of an N*Sync-loving baby-sitter Katie had us guffawing and pining for the naïve myth-making of youth in equal measure.

Originally from Milwaukee and moving to grow up in the suburbs of Chicago, Fostar then went to film school in New York before arriving in London to study at LSE two years ago. His devastating short short N*SYNC 1995-2002 was inspired by everyone’s favourite line, "Baby bye, bye, bye (bye bye)" from everyone’s favourite N*Sync number, ‘Bye Bye Bye’. It’s kind of about saying ‘Bye’, or something, is what we gathered, after catching up with the young author to get the truth on Katie, his thoughts on N*Sync and his long-term literary ambitions. The full story will be published in the September issue of Dazed, out tomorrow. Read his short story inspired by the line “Baby bye, bye, bye (bye bye)” from *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye” below the Q&A.

Dazed Digital : The whole Dazed office was really impressed by N*Sync 1995-2002. How long have you been writing?
Jonathan Blake Fostar: 
I’ve been scribbling away in notebooks since I was eight but I never tried to publish anything before in my whole life.

DD: Where did the inspiration for the story come from? Did you really have a babysitter called Katie?
Jonathan Blake Fostar: 
Yeah, she was my babysitter, for sure. I don’t know if she killed herself because N*Sync broke up – we always thought she did. And she always had a tour bus parked on her driveway at the beginning of every summer and she would be following them around on tour and she definitely would make me and my little brother do dance routines when she was babysitting us. I assume she’s still alive. I hope so, but who knows.

DD: She’s basically famous now.
Jonathan Blake Fostar: 
Yeah sure.

DD: Have you ever been tempted to look her up? Maybe I should interview her?
Jonathan Blake Fostar: 
I think my mom does but I don’t remember. My neighbourhood had two streets and it made a cross section and she lived just to the right of my street. I never saw her after I was 12. I’ll ask my mum whatever happened to her and maybe you guys can do a piece on her?

DD: Sounds like the best idea I’ve heard all day. Did you know Lance from N*Sync trained to become an astronaut?
Jonathan Blake Fostar: 
Oh yeah, he trained in Russia or something with the cosmonauts.

DD: He was going to do it for some kind of TV show but the sponsorship fell through. I think we should start a campaign to get Lance into space and fulfill his dream.
Jonathan Blake Fostar: 
 that guy who owns Virgin? I think he’s been trying to get commercial flights into space. 

DD: Richard Branson?
Jonathan Blake Fostar: 
Yeah. We should try and get Lance onto one of those. It only costs a million dollars for the seat, but whatever. 

DD: Maybe you can foot the bill when you’re a sell-out author. Has this always been your ambition?
Jonathan Blake Fostar: 
Yeah since I was a little kid. It was the one thing I liked a lot and didn’t care about much else. Writing and words and language, they’re my only interests, so yeah, of course. But I never really published stuff or put stuff on blogs or literary journals online, like a lot of people do... I never did any of that.

DD: And who do you read?
Jonathan Blake Fostar: 
This guy called Dennis Cooper. I really like his books and especially, ‘The George Miles Cycle’, it’s a collection of five books. I read Dennis Cooper every couple of days, I’m a huge fan of his. I like writers of short fiction, like Lydia Davis too.


After *NSYNC broke up, Katie went missing or something. I guess she was the president of the local chapter of their fan club. For $19.99 Jive Records would mail you The Official *NSYNC Fan Club Magazine, several stickers and a VHS of their most recent music videos, plus exclusive backstage footage of the band on tour in Japan. Katie and her friends would meet up at Burger King and eat chicken tenders and talk about Justin Timberlake’s ramen noodle haircut.

Every summer there would be a tourbus parked on her parents’ driveway with each of the boyband member’s heads airbrushed on one side and the words “Tour ’97” or “Tour ’98” or “Tour ’99” on the other. Katie would follow the band, sleeping in the bus at a rest stop off the highway nearest to whatever hotel they were staying in. Each morning she and her friends would drive to that hotel’s parking lot. They would drink Mountain Dew and talk about their favorite bonus tracks, only available on the imported European CDs. Mostly she just looked at all of the windows until her neck hurt. One time JC looked out the window while he was doing his hair. He waved at her or maybe someone standing next to her. He said something. She had pictures of this, I swear.

JC was her favorite. She liked his voice the most out of the group. She could always tell when it was him singing and she liked that for some reason. Justin was her second favorite because of his haircut. Chris was her third favorite and Lance was her fourth favorite just because. Joey was her least favorite because Joey was everybody’s least favorite.

Sometimes I would ride my bike over to her street and just sort of wander through people’s backyards. Katie and her high school friends would be taking pills and hanging out on her trampoline. I’d watch them, pretending I was doing something with my bike the next yard over. Every time they laughed really loud I’d think they were laughing at me and would run away dragging my bike through the grass like a total weirdo.

Katie would babysit my brother and me when my parents went out with their friends from church. She would dress us up in baggy clothes she brought over in her backpack and put a copy of the latest *NSYNC music video into the VCR. She would make us dance a couple of routines, following the band’s moves in the video for at least 45 minutes. The only dance move I remember involved stomping your feet while simultaneously waving a fist over your head exactly three times while turning 90 degrees. Sometimes she would invite this one boy over. They never did anything though. They mostly watched TV. Friends. MTV Cribs. Everybody Loves Raymond reruns. I’d sit at the top of the stairs when my parents came home.
“So how’d it go?” Mom said.
“Great,” Katie said, “Jonathan has a stomach ache though.”
“He always has a stomach ache,” Mom said.
When Katie went missing we only noticed because her car wasn’t in her driveway. At the bus stop someone just said, “Hey, has anybody seen Katie around?” and everyone sort of said, “No, I don’t think so,” or, “Yeah, wait, no, I don’t know,” or, “She has pretty cool boobs.”
A couple weeks later in the lunch room at school my friend George came over to our table, talking about how his older brother said that his friend said that during morning announcements at the high school their principal said that she had died and expressed his condolences to her family and that any students needing to talk about it should report to the guidance counselor’s office immediately.

“I heard she killed herself while listening to that new *NSYNC song,” George said, “you know, that one with the music video or something... or like... um... or... I don’t know... you know the one.” Everyone at the table was eating cheese fries.
And yesterday in Orlando, Florida, I asked my mom what had happened to that one girl, Katie.
“Your babysitter?” Mom said.
“Yeah, Katie,” I said. “She, like, disappeared or something.”
“I think she just went to college,” Mom said. “Arizona State. I’m pretty sure. Do you want to go to the swimming pool?”

OK, maybe Katie killed herself or maybe Katie went to college at ASU. Maybe JC is the best member of *NSYNC, or maybe the best one is Justin. Or maybe the best guy is Chris, or Lance, or even Joey. Maybe Katie lives in Los Angeles now. Maybe she lives in California or maybe she still lives in that same house and nobody really felt like figuring it out and well, she just still lives there. It was 2002, I don’t know. But either Katie killed herself or she went to college because *NSYNC broke up. Whatever, who cares. My stomach hurts.