Photo courtesy of the Suchaceks

Characters from Cheryl Suchacek’s first book “Strands of Sollus.” Cheryl’s husband, Ed, helped create and illustrate book and character art.

By Aaron Dobler

Cheryl Suchacek of Troy Hill spends her days crunching numbers as a revenue auditor at Rivers Casino, but by night she has been hard at work with her debut novel “Strands of Sollus” (Dorrance Publishing).

Cheryl is not new to being published –she has had poetry printed in several anthologies–but “Strands of Sollus” is her first attempt at a full-length novel. Writing a novel is difficult enough, but because Cheryl writes in the fantasy genre, she has taken on the additional challenge of creating and populating an entire world complete with its own mythology and history.

“The world of Sollus itself took me over a year to develop and another year to write the story,” Cheryl says. “Then a year in production. This has been a long time building.”

“Strands of Sollus” follows the characters Myst and Lotus as they try to recover a stolen magical sword, but they quickly discover that there is a much larger and more dangerous plot behind the theft, and the very fate of Sollus could be at stake.

Cheryl does most of her writing in her computer room where she works in close proximity to her husband, Ed, who created the cover art for the book and other visual art from the world of Sollus, which can be found on the website. The website also includes trailers that promote the book and a store where people can buy copies of the book and other items like handmade chainmail bookmarks.

The Suchaceks are avid tabletop and online gamers, which has given them a lot of practice in creating characters that interact with unusual environments.

“We have a lot of years of gaming between us to draw on for seeing how characters react. Myst and Lotus both started out as characters that I would run,” Cheryl said. “Over the years, they’ve evolved.”

She added: “I start with a location, and I want them to get here. What happens in between is because I’ve developed the characters to such an extent that I know how they’re going to react. My characters drive the story more than I do.”

“They went from simple characters on a piece of paper to characters that almost live and breathe on their own. They’re believable. They have desires. They have wants,” Ed said.

What sets “Strands of Sallus” apart from other fantasy novels is an erotic element that Cheryl describes as “R-rated.”

“It’s an epic fantasy, but it definitely has an erotic twist to it, and a little bit of mystery,” she said.

Friends and neighbors who know her as a mother and soon-to-be grandmother have initially been surprised by the content, but they have also been clamoring for her to finish the second book of the series.

Cheryl assures her readers that the erotic content will continue throughout the series and adds: “It’s woven into the story in a way that makes sense. It actually has a meaning in the book as to how and why it happens. It’s integral to it.”

Cheryl expects the series to consist of five books, with each book unlocking and exploring a new area of the map. “Strands of Sollus” limits most of its action to a single island, but other areas are alluded to as well.

“I haven’t even hit the mainland yet, so I’ve got a lot of ground to cover in book two,” Cheryl said.

Cheryl is also working on a short story that serves as a prequel that covers one of the main character’s younger years.

“I created a huge playground,” she explained. “It’s definitely something I can see going a lot further than I had originally thought.”

In addition to the books and the website, the Cheryl and Ed believe that the world of Sollus would make a good role-playing game or film. Cheryl would even welcome other authors in to write stories that take place in her world the way that large-scale fantasy series like “Forgotten Realms” and “Dragonlance” have.

“Strands of Sollus” is available through Dorrance Publishing, amazon.com barnesandnoble.com and more. It is available in both print and e-book formats.

Since its publication in March 2014, it has gone out of stock twice on amazon.com, and it has received mostly five-star reviews from readers and no reviews lower than four stars.

While Cheryl has the world of Sollus on her mind, her feet are firmly planted in Pittsburgh. Cheryl is currently contacting local bookstores to schedule author events and signings.

“I want to keep it local,” she said. “Everything I’ve done has been through a local company, from the business cards to the fliers to the publisher. I want it to succeed, and I want to keep it Pittsburgh-based. Family ties and home are important to us, and home is always going to be in this area.”