The Ray D'Arcy show audience gasped in amazement on Friday when writer Marian Keyes said she was going to be 59 in September and there was a more muted reception to Ray’s announcement that he was only a year behind her. Ray didn't seem to mind and Marian was only half joking when she said that medical science deserves most of the credit:

"That’s really nice, but can I just say: my entire head is made of Botox. Don’t be clapping me - be clapping the nice people who are doing the injections and the fillers and everything."

Marian said she thinks Ray has the right idea:

"But you’re right Ray, we should be celebrating aging, rather than 'younging.’"

The Ray D’Arcy Show was broadcasting live from Dún Laoghaire in Dublin to mark the 21st birthday of the Pavilion Theatre - and who better to invite to your 21st than local treasure and recently crowned Author of the Year at the British Book Awards, Marian Keyes. It was an afternoon of honest chats about love and shopping, family and friendship, addiction and recovery and knock-off designer runners. Marian’s husband Tony Baines joined in the chat as did actor and comedian Tara Flynn, Marian’s podcast partner on their BBC Radio 4 show Now You’re Asking.

Speaking about her most recent novel Again, Rachel, continuing the Walsh family series, Marian says one of her biggest fears in writing sequels is that she’ll hate them. Not only that, a bad sequel will taint how she sees the books that came before. She says patience is the answer:

"I gave myself a while and I knew, I knew I’d know if it wasn’t working. After about 3 months I was fairly sure. She was the same Rachel. She was 20 years older and life had changed for her, but she felt the same person to me."

Ray asked about Marian’s relationship with her most famous creation - where does one begin and the other end?

"I’m not Rachel, she’s a far more confident person than I am, but the thing that we have in common is that we are both addicts in long-term recovery."

Marian explains that it takes self-reflection to write about the parts of Rachel’s life that chime with her own experience. But then once written, she says, Rachel’s story throws up new ways of thinking about her own life:

"It was things like, you know, the things that are tedious, like people still being really nervy around me when they’re dying to have a glass of wine and looking at me and thinking ‘Is she going to lunge across the table and grab it from me and reach for the bottle and break into a run?’ It was by writing that I thought, oh yeah, people do sort of see me like that. And I have to say to them, sure lookit, you’re grand. Please drink with impunity. You’re safe."

Questions came in from the live audience and Marian was asked what she was like as a child? Marian says she found it tough being a kid and that reading was a great escape from self-consciousness and fear:

"I just found life very hard, I found it very uncomfortable being me and I sort of felt that everyone else had got the memo about how to be alive and I just didn’t. And I was constantly watching other people to find out how to be. And I was afraid a lot. And then when I found books, reading – it was just joyous."

Another audience member managed to squeeze two questions into one; firstly, how hard was it for Marian to open up about her own struggles with addiction, and secondly, what’s the story with Daddy Walsh being a relatively minor character? Marian says on the addiction front, there was no issue with putting it in the story:

"The opening up thing was never difficult, because the one thing I knew very deep down was being an alcoholic or an addict, there was nothing to be ashamed about. I don’t know why, because I’m very shame-based, it’s easy to shame me! But I knew that nobody would want it, you know, nobody."

Marian says the strength of her conviction on this point was a great help, and that she is proud of what she has achieved:

"Addiction is not a moral failing or a weakness or self-indulgence or greed. I knew that it was an illness, in the way that, like diabetes, nobody chooses it. And I was so proud of myself for getting well and I was also very proud of the fact that I was a young woman and that I was owning it."

As far as Daddy Walsh is concerned, Marian says that his character probably reflects the more traditional role of a father played out by her parents’ generation:

"About Daddy Walsh – you see, the Walsh sisters aren’t reflection of me or my siblings, but the dynamic, I suppose, is similar to the one I grew up with where the mother was, is, still such an important figure. And Dad was always away out of the house working, working very hard; he was really busy. Maybe that was kind of the model I had for what dads were like."

Taking up on the ‘dads’ point, Ray asked whether Marian found it difficult writing men? Marian says finds it easier and easier to write male characters and she's also changed how she’s written about them over the years:

"No! Less and less as well. In the book before, Grown Ups, four of the seven main characters are men: Ferdia and Johnny and Ed and Liam. And actually, it was very nice to write men. Because I think as I’ve got older and I’ve been writing longer. In my early days, men were either good or bad, men were either love interests or love rats."

"There’s a lot more to us!" Ray chimes in and Marian is very happy to agree.

Marian reveals which of her characters she’d most like to meet in real life, and the one piece of advice she gives to all aspiring writers. It’s all in the full Ray D’Arcy Show, which you can stream as a podcast or listen back to in full here.

Marian Keyes' novel Again, Rachel is out now in paperback, published by Michael Joseph/Penguin.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised here, you can find information on helplines by going here.