The former secretary of state of the United States has co-written a thriller with the renowned author of the Inspector Gamache crime series and it probably wouldn't have happened without Ryan Tubridy. When Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny spoke to Ryan, he reminded them that the last time he spoke to Mrs Clinton – in 2018 – he'd suggested that she should try her hand at writing fiction. He played back the clip from that meeting – just so no one’s in any doubt – and this is what he said then:

"What about you, though? I'd love to see a good old thriller out of you because I think that – no, I really mean that – because you’ve seen and heard some seriously heavy, crazy stuff and the world we’re living in at the moment... One wonders is there a part of you that would love to write the novel...?"

To which Madame Secretary replied at the time, "I think you’ve given me an idea." Fast forward three years and here is the idea brought to fruition. All thanks to Mr Tubridy. Mrs Clinton and Ms Penny’s agents must have been paying attention in 2018 though, because it was they who suggested the two women team up to write a thriller. Hillary wasn’t sure it was such a good idea:

"Louise and I have been friends since 2016 and I thought, 'Ah, you know, that’s tough. I’ve never done this before.’ I think she felt the same way, she’d never collaborated, you know. We went back and forth and then we decided we’d actually give it a try and that’s when we dove in to figure out if we could do it."

They could do it. They did do it. And Ryan was delighted with the result, reading it to the exclusion of all else in the space of a few days. Both Hillary and Louise had to learn how to write the book together, as Louise told Ryan:

"I’d never collaborated – I had no idea – how do you collaborate with someone? I never even show my manuscripts to someone until they’re as good as they could possibly get and so it is, I sort of thought of it as going from a singles tennis player to a doubles tennis player and the last thing I wanted to do was start hitting Hillary Clinton on the back of the head with tennis balls. Or have her hit me – even worse!"

Both authors have called the book – State of Terror – a cautionary tale and Ryan asked Hillary why they’re framing it that way. She told him the story – involving a secretary of state, nuclear weapons, the Russian president and Al-Qaeda – is an entirely plausible one:

"The book hits on major themes that are rooted in reality. As people have said, it’s ripped from the headlines. Obviously, it is about the fear of terrorist groups getting nuclear weapons, something that I literally worried about, that kept me up at night when I was at the State Department. It still keeps me up at night because it’s a very real threat."

And Hillary also laid out the reasons for avoiding a non-fiction approach to getting her fears of terrorist groups and nuclear weapons to the book-reading public:

"I could write a book about, you know, the threat of terrorists getting nuclear weapons, you know, it’s like telling people to eat their spinach. But with Louise, we could create characters, we could drive the plot, we could really get people to start thinking like, ‘Oh hey, that’s a great read, but oh my gosh, I didn’t know this was a problem.’"

Ryan told the authors that reading the exploits of Ellen Adams, State of Terror’s Secretary of State left him exhausted, as she has the sort of job that never turns off. The very fact of being a female Secretary of State, Ryan went on, means that Ellen had to put up with 20-25% more pressure than a male in the same role. Louise agreed:

"It’s reminiscent of what they used to say about Ginger Rogers, that she had to do everything Fred Astaire did, but in high heels and backward. And we wanted to capture that. But also to make her human, so that she had all of this pressure, all of these responsibilities, all the fear herself, but she also had some doubts, some insecurities as well. So it was really important to us that she not be a superwoman, but someone who’s recognisable."

You can hear the full, hugely entertaining, conversation between Ryan, Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny – including the importance of Chardonnay and Spanx to a Secretary of State and the underlying influence of Horslips to the book – by going here.

State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny is published by Pan Macmillan.