A love and understanding of both animals and children, shines through Sleep's work, and little wonder. As a child she was into almost anything that involved animals, from show jumping, to breeding and showing tropical fish. "I was the child parents fear like the plague," she notes. "I brought home every bruised, wounded and abandoned creature I could find. My father came from Scottish ancestry, and my grandmother used to tell me I was 'fey'. Everyone else told me I was crazy."
Her love of animals, she says, is a part of who she is. When Sleep moved away from her hometown of Cobourg, Ontario, she continued to do promotional and practical work for rescue groups. "I had a lifelong interest in genetics and breeding, but was unable to really get into it, while living in the city." Instead, she kept a couple of domestic cats that came to her through the Animal Rescue League in Saint John, N.B. and a friend who was adopted by a pregnant stray. "She brought the kittens to a meeting of our cat club," Sleep says. "Scamp picked me out, and I was hooked. I think animals look at me and send out a 'soft touch' alert."
Sleep's writing career spans 40 years, from stints on community newspapers, to magazine articles and photography, and eventually to full-time work as a freelance writer and editor. "When I lived in Saint John, I worked at the Boys and Girls Club, and also volunteered for the Kindness Club. I loved working with children, so when I moved to the country, I continued working with them as a casual teacher assistant, and a volunteer with whatever school functions my son was involved in. Children and animals are a marvelous combination, and sometimes," she smiles, "working with one, is good grounding for working with the other."
In 1991, Sleep began showing and then breeding Golden Retrievers under the prefix "Carraig". Eventually she opened a boarding kennel under the same name. Then, in 1996 when her last household pet passed away at age 20, she began breeding and showing Birman cats. Since then, Sleep has become known for introducing the beautiful, colour-pointed cats to many people in the Maritimes and elsewhere. While her cats are grand champions and regional winners, they are also treasured companions, and all her animals have crossed into Sleep's "professional" life as a writer, many times.
"I have a column on my cattery website, about what a zoo my household is. That column is actually over 15 years old, but things never change. If it's not a kitten doing the dog paddle in a full tub, then there's a dog trying to give guests their shoes so they can go home."
When the opportunity was ripe to develop her idea for a series of children's books, Sleep spent a lot of time considering how to deliver a "product" that kids and their parents would enjoy. "I think you have to appeal to the kid in everyone," she says. "By having the characters get into situations that are silly, and by letting them do things that are a little bit bad, then young readers have all the fun of seeing fictional characters doing what they sometimes would like to do themselves." And while there isn't a real "moral" to Purrlock Holmes, Sleep does manage to slip in gentle reminders that children are people, and many things can touch a child's life.
Sleep, a New Brunswick author, has written for cat magazines in
countries, as well as here at home. She is the author of "Ten
Trivia" (Glen Margaret Publishing), a contributing author to the
John Bathroom Readers, and the former editor of "Household Pets"
on suite101.com. A freelance writer and editor for many years, she
now works full time as a social media consultant. Her first
"Purrlock Holmes and the Case of the Vanishing Valuables" was
the Winner of the 2005 Muse Medallion for Young Adult
Fiction. The second book, "The Case of the Missing Treasure"
also won a Muse Medallion for cover design and artwork.