My Secret Life: Marian Keyes, author, 46

My parents were ... lovely people. Very much a product of post-independence Ireland; devout, hard-working, very big on their children getting an education.

The house/flat I grew up in ... was a three-bedroom semi in Cork City, where the Dads went out to work and the Mums stayed home and baked Victoria Sponge.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... happy.

A moment that changed me forever ... was having my first drink, aged 14. I was instantly in thrall.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I'd catastrophise a little less often.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... disentangling delicate gold chains.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... small talk. I'd rather dig a ditch than go to a dinner party with people I don't know.

At night I dream of ... being back in my old job in an accounts office. Even 13 years later, it feels like I could step right back into it now and it'd be as if I'd never left.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... A short, nondescript woman with nice hair. I don't hate myself as much now as I used to.

My favourite item of clothing ... is a teal hoodie. I like hoodies. They just make me feel safe.

The shop I can't walk past ... I'm fond of them all but I really love a good chemist – I'm especially interested in new forms of Savlon. I'm the only person I know who actually browses in chemists.

I drive ... regrettably, a Mercedes. I used to have a lime-green Beetle; other drivers were always lovely and would let me out of side-turnings and sometimes even give me a cheery wave. Then my husband got a fancy new car and I inherited his old Merc. Now drivers hate me and I spend disproportionate amounts of my time trying to get out of turnings while other drivers sneer and shout.

My home is ... a terraced Georgian house in Dun Laoghaire, a suburb of Dublin, by the sea. It's an old, stone-walled, north-facing place with all kinds of quirky, peculiar-shaped rooms. And it's exceptionally cold, except that it isn't, because I spend a fortune on warming it. Apart from gas bills, I also seem to spend a phenomenal amount on blueberries.

My favourite work of art ... is a big, vibrant oil painting of a vase of flowers, by an Irish artist called Lucy Doyle and I'm lucky enough to own it.

My favourite building ... is St Basil's in Moscow. Who says Moscow is grey? This is psychedelic!

A book that changed me ... was 'The Beauty Myth' by Naomi Wolf.

Movie heaven ... is anything written by the Coen brothers or starring Audrey Hepburn.

The last album I bought ... I'm tempted to lie and say Robert Plant or Leonard Cohen. Actually it's Christina Aguilera. And it's not even a proper album – it's her greatest hits.

My secret crush ... is Claudia Winkleman.

My real-life villain ... I'm not keen on the leaders of most organised religions, but being a recovering Catholic, I'll choose one and go for the Pope.

My greatest regret ... is admitting to a national newspaper that I bought Christina Aguilera's greatest hits.

My five-year plan ... I find it hard enough to get through the day.

My life in six words ... shame/guilt (hey, I'm Irish), defiance, depression, writing, connection, hope.

A life in brief

Marian Keyes was born in Limerick, Ireland, in September 1963. Often described as the pioneer of British chick lit, her bestselling novels include Lucy's Getting Married, Rachel's Holiday and This Charming Man. A recovering alcoholic, Keyes lives in a suburb of Dublin with her husband. Her latest book, The Brightest Star in the Sky, is published by Penguin (£18.99)