Getting paid to sit around in your pajamas and write mean things about strangers on the Internet — sounds easy, right? But as Jessica Grose proves in her new novel, professional blogging is much more grueling (and even less glamorous) than it seems.
For Sad Desk Salad protagonist Alex Lyons, working for a popular women’s website is one third dream job, two thirds nightmare. She spends 12 hours a day writing posts that hit a nerve — at the cost of rarely seeing daylight, constantly being insulted by anonymous commenters, and never quite knowing how secure her job is. Things get more complicated when Alex receives a salacious video from an unnamed source. Posting it could make her career — or destroy her last shred of integrity.
Though the book is fiction, it contains more than a kernel of truth: Grose has worked as an editor at both Jezebel and Slate’s DoubleX vertical. (I interned at Slate when Grose worked there, though we rarely interacted.) Shortly after Sad Desk Salad hit shelves, I called Grose to chat about working online, the perils of privacy in the Internet age, and the best way for a blogger to keep her sanity. Hint: It involves avoiding Google.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you decide to write a novel?
JESSICA GROSE: Well, I had been seeing the issues that I deal with in the novel — privacy, and how journalists are navigating new media — for at least the past five years. I really wanted to talk about those issues, but I didn’t want to do it in a serious way — if I did it as nonfiction, I’d have to take a stand. And I think it’s such an ambiguous, complicated issue; it would be much more interesting to weave those conflicts into a fictional narrative. Also, I wanted to have a little fun. [laughs] I actually started writing it just to entertain myself, which sounds goofy.
How did you come up with the title?
There’s actually a very new media explanation.
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