Interview: Mathew Klickstein, Author of "Slimed: An Oral History of Nickelodeon's Golden Age"
The Book How did you start this project? Some time around the Economic Collapse in 2008, a lot went wrong in my life. A LOT. I was particularly affected by the Writer's Strike that happened the same year (my roommate who worked at Sony was laid-off and almost had to move out when he didn't even get unemployment for a while, and I lost a substantial deal that could have set me up for a years not to mention could have been a huge boon for my fledgling career; all this with the same folks who'd made my bathetic Steven Seagal picture, so it wasn't exactly a half-baked type of deal). I wrote a script on option for a friend who came to the rescue last minute, sold my car, was HIT by a car (some money there), and sold some stock in a company I'd help create with some friends (that also went to pot shortly after the Economic Collapse). I went to stay with a friend in Portland, OR and needed to figure out what to do next. I was no longer going to be in LA/Hollywood, something I'd been striving toward and had become moderately successful at for nearly a decade. So, I thought about grad school. I thought about becoming "an expert" at something. But, what? The idea of Nickelodeon popped in my head, and I started telling people I was going to write a book on the subject, but had no idea how. By that I mean I knew I could WRITE the book, but what to do with it when I completed the thing? Fast-forward a few years to my having had some work out there, my moving around quite a bit, and having acquired an agent through a series of odd circumstances and far-too-hard-work (no arguments there). When another project we'd be trying to pitch for almost two years finally died, she asked me glumly, "Got anything else?" I mentioned the Nickelodeon book idea that was still in the back of my mind and -- luckily for me and the forthcoming readers of this book -- she decided to go with it, being a surrogate Nick Kid herself (despite being in her fifties). I connected with (Doug creator) Jim Jinkins through a friend of a friend (actually, the guy who recorded most of the sound for the show), did a phone interview with him, wrote something up a few months later after being laid-off from my job at a Boulder newspaper, and -- thanks again to some advice from my agent -- starting writing a piece about a different Nick show every week for the website Splitsider (after cold-calling/emailing its editor). I had never even blogged before and didn't really like the idea, but, seemed to be the way to go and very shortly after that -- along with a kick-ass full proposal I wrote up with some assistance from that trusty agent of mine -- we sold the idea to Penguin. You seem well connected in the Nick community. Howd you start getting in touch with all of these people? Another question I get asked REGULARLY. I'm not trying to be obtuse here, but it's just not easy to answer. I tracked down and talked to more than 250 people. Some living in Ireland, one person who had totally defected to the South of France and was mentioned to me numerous times as a person I'd never find. Every person was a different hoop to jump through. All I'll say is Facebook had nothing to do with it. I didn't even have a Facebook account before finishing the interview process (only have one now specifically for the book because it's free/easy and my principles aren't worth losing marketing potential over; I'm too poor to be pragmatic). The short answer? I just figured it out. I've always been really good at that. Even as a kid, I'd write to people like Phyllis Diller and whomever. I have a hand-written note from Bret Easton Ellis, and a typed (typewriter style) letter from Roman Polanski. I guess it's one of the reasons I've always been able to be a professional journalist, for the most part. Some people are good at baseball. I'm good at this. Oh, and people in the Nick world who still knew each other were starting to help me get in touch with folks themselves once they realized I was a guy to talk to. That helped a bunch. It was that Bill Gates "positive spiral" thing. Whos been the most resourceful/best person to work with? Also, whats your crowning achievement when it comes to this book? Just about everyone. I feel weird/bad that the "shout out" section of my acknowledgments is so damn long. But, so many people helped out in so many ways. Marc Summers, again, was so incredibly supportive and helpful and also wrote the foreword to my book. Toby Huss wrote a special message in the voice of Artie (even more incredible than you could imagine; my editor admitted she couldn't even BEGIN to work on it, so she just left it as is, which I love). Mitchell Kriegman (creator of Clarissa, amongst other things) was one person who really got me in touch with many others (but please don't bug him after reading that!!) The grand achievement is the easiest question of all: Finishing the damn thing. I really didn't know if I'd be able to do it or not. How could I? I just didn't know. All along. Right up until I turned the f**ker in. But, it's done. And now I feel I could do it at least two more times (and hope I can).