An author from Billingshurst is celebrating the release of her first novel - at the age of 69.
The thought of a quiet retirement doesn’t appeal to Zielfa Maslin, who was awarded a doctorate before she began writing ‘Rosa’ in 2008.
Zielfa experienced all the challenges that accompany producing a self-published book, but ‘Rosa’ was successfully released in June.
“I thought I could be sitting here watching television all the time, but I didn’t want to do that”, explained Zielfa.
“I had always thought about what my life could have been if I had studied English, because for me writing has always been there.
“I enrolled on a writing course run by Horsham District Council in the library, and after a while I thought I would write and see what happens.”
‘Seeing what happened’ led Zielfa to creating a fictional tale about a worker originating from her own homeland of the Philippines.
The book gets its title from the main character, who moves from her home in the Philippines to become a domestic worker in England.
Although there is a difference in career path, it is a similar journey taken by Zielfa herself - and the themes apparent in the story are ones that are clearly very close to her heart.
She said: “It is about inequality and discrimination that domestic workers suffer, they are seen, even by people in the Philippines, as one of the lowest kinds of people.
“I feel that the Philippine government is not doing enough to help them have better working conditions when they are working abroad - I suppose it is a bit of a dig at the Philippine government!”
In the story, Rosa leaves her husband and three children in the Philippines to become a domestic worker for her English employers.
Coming from a poor family, Rosa is well-paid but thought of poorly in her home country, and problems inevitably surface.
The theme of remittance, whereby foreign workers transfer money back to their family, is influential throughout the book. In countries such as the Philippines, it is a huge source of income.
“Filipinos think we are really in the money, so they think we can just give them money or presents”, said Zielfa.
“They don’t realise that their relative back here is working sometimes to the middle of the night to save money. They think money is flowing, and it is not.
“Remittance is a big dollar earner. It is being encouraged by our government because it pays for all the debts of the Philippine government.”
Rather than attempting to sell her story to publishers, Zielfa opted to publish ‘Rosa’ on her own terms.
Raising the finances to do so was ‘a big challenge’, while Zielfa’s daughter edited the novel.
Zielfa hopes that her book could contribute to a change in how domestic workers like Rosa are regarded.
She said: “I really hope that people will read it, and hopefully it can give value to domestic workers for what they do and give them better working conditions.”
‘Rosa’ is available for purchase on Amazon in paperback or as an e-book.