Character Spotlight ~ Jason Elam & Steve Yohn’s Riley Covington


Today the spotlight shines on………………….Riley Covington


What do you get when you combine a former Youth Pastor with a former NFL kicker? An engaging thriller called Blackout, releasing January, 2010! Steve Yohn and Jason Elam have just released their third Riley Covington novel, following on from Sunday Night Jihad and Blown Coverage – the trilogy would make a great Christmas gift for the men in your life! Check out the profile below on their everyday hero, Riley Covington. Over to you, Steve:~

Brief physical description

This is an interesting question, because Jason and I have purposely kept this ambiguous. Through the three books, we’ve given descriptions of each of our supporting characters to one extent or another, but never for Riley Covington.

When I read a book, I will often create a picture in my mind of what the protagonist looks like. Often it will be based on a movie star I particularly like (Denzel Washington and ‘Jack Ryan-era’ Harrison Ford have both starred in quite a number of books I’ve read). Sometimes, even when a description is given, I’ll ignore it and put in one of my own. This allows me to visualize the action better – to identify more with what the character is going through.

So, when you read one of the Riley Cov
ington books, feel free to make him whoever you want him to be (as long as he can run like a gazelle, hit like a diesel truck, and bench press a small car).

Actor/famous person

As I just mentioned, Riley is sort of this amorphous-faced character. When readers look at him, they will see what they want to see.

Many people have thought that we patterned Riley after Jason. In fact, more than one interviewer has asked why we didn’t just make our hero a kicker. Jason’s quick response? “We had to make it plausible.”

Strengths and weaknesses

Riley’s greatest strength is his faith in God. However imperfectly he carries it out at times, you still know he’s trying to do the right thing. And that leads to a second strength, he’s real. Often writers will create protagonists that are one-dimensional – too perfect, too manly, too brilliant. Riley is just an ordinary guy who does a lot of really good things, but makes quite a few boneheaded moves along the way. Knowing my personal penchant towards stupidity, I find I can identify more with characters like that.

But make no mistake, Riley is a true hero. No matter the risk, no matter the cost, he will do what needs to be done to save lives.

Riley’s got a few weaknesses – one being, as his friend Scott Ross has said, “He’s not too good with the chicks.” He stumbles through his quasi-relationship with Khadi Faroughi spending half his time pulling his foot back out of his mouth, and then muddles it up even more when a reporter with ‘amazing green eyes’ catches his attention.

He also tends to be a bit too critical of himself, especially when things are getting rough and people start to die. Sometimes I find myself saying, “Dude, relax! Cut yourself some slack!” Unfortunately, that’s not who he is, and it ticks me off to no end when he forces me to write his hyper-analytical moments.

One final weakness is his tendency to use his status as a football veteran to his advantage. Riley’s not ashamed to cut in front of a rookie in the taping line. He feels no guilt when he bumps a newbie off of the massage table. And when rookie night comes around and all the first-year players are forced to buy dinner for the whole team at one of the most expensive restaurants in town, he’s more than happy to help run up the tab with a couple appetizers, a few extra sides, and a sampling of all the desserts. Hey, it’s just football.

Quirk (if any)

Riley is a rock of stability in a sea of quirk. It seems that everyone around him is at least a little bit off. But the King of Quirk is his best friend, Scott Ross. This four-inch goatee sporting, 70’s rock-and-roll t-shirt wearing, Yoo-hoo and Diet Mountain Dew Code Red mixing, analytical genius quickly became my favorite character primarily because he gets to say all the things I wish I could. Sometimes I sit back and am amazed at the stuff that comes out of that boy’s mouth (and just a little bit envious, too, since he has the guts to say it and I don’t).

Your inspiration for the character

Jason was the one who initially came up with the character of Riley Covington. He had always been intrigued with the players who went through the military academies, but then had to fulfill their service before starting up their NFL careers – guys like Chad Hennings and Chris Gizzi.

Then, after hearing stories from his brother (a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army) about some of the crazy things that are going on in the world in relation to terrorism and radical Islam, Jason got the idea of putting the two together.

Finally, he combined those elements with what is most important to him – his faith – and he came up with Riley Covington. Like Hennings and Gizzi, Riley was drafted out of the Air Force Academy by a professional football team, but had to fulfill his military obligation before he could play. After being wounded in Afghanistan, he was released from his remaining service, and was free to begin his football career. Background to the story

Blackout begins not long after the previous book, Blown Coverage, ends. Riley is reeling over the murder of his father and his own narrow escape from death. In the meantime, he still has to keep it together so that he can stay in shape for the upcoming football season.

Unbeknownst to him, however, a new terrorist threat is emerging out of the East – two electro-magnetic pulse weapons are on their way to America. These EMPs have the ability to destroy anything electronic, from cell phones to cars to computers, effectively sending the affected area back to the 19th century.

In his typically unexpected way, Scott Ross enlists Riley into the search for these weapons. But just when they’re getting close, New York goes dark with the only light coming from the fires caused by the planes falling from the sky.

Can Riley and his crew stop the second weapon from being detonated and causing the death of thousands more?

Blackout not only engages the reader in the thrill of the chase, but it also offers a frightening, first-hand look into an all-too-real scenario of what can happen when the lights go out for good.

Steve ~ thanks for putting together this inside look at what drives Riley Covington!

On Monday, I will be spotlighting Olivia Keene and Lord Bradley from Julie Klassen’s highly anticipated historical novel, The Silent Governess.


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