Like her very own characters, Colchester author Liz Trenow knew she too had to visit the sites of the First World War battlefields to find the stories for her latest book.

That’s In Love and War, the story of three women who undertake a pilgrimage to Flanders, each of them from different countries and backgrounds, with different perspectives of the war.

“It started with a single line from the research I did for my earlier book The Poppy Factory,” she tells me, “which simply said after the war 7,000 people went to the devastated area of Flanders in search of their loved ones.

“Battlefield tours are commonplace today, but it was astonishing to me to discover that within months of the end of the war tour companies were already taking thousands of visitors to Flanders and The Somme.

“It is almost impossible to imagine the level of devastation: hundreds of towns and villages destroyed, roads churned up into mud, land littered with, trenches, hastily-erected graves, barbed wire and unexploded ordnance. Yet it is easy to sympathise with those who undertook such perilous pilgrimages, seeking the places where their loved ones died, or desperate for news of those who had disappeared in the chaos of war.”

A former journalist with The Times, Colchester Gazette and Essex County Standard, Liz began writing her first novel, The Last Telegram, as part of her MA project.

Picking up a prize as part of the course, she signed with literary agent Christopher Little, the man who discovered JK Rowling.

Since then she has had four books published, The Last Telegram, The Forgotten Seamstress and The Poppy Factory, which has brought out to coincide with the anniversary of the start of the First World War. The Forgotten Seamstress reached the top 20 in the New York Times best seller list and The Last Telegram was nominated for a national award.

But it was while on her trip to Flanders, Liz discovered the foundations of her latest novel, including a place where she could set the book, Poperinge in Belgium.

“As soon as I saw the Hotel de la Paix,” she beams, “I thought this is it, this is where the novel has to be set, and then I discovered Talbot House.

“It was set up by Rev Phillip ‘Tubby’ Clayton, an army chaplain, to provide a slice of normality when soldiers came back from the trenches. It had a library and a chapel up in the attic and was for the use of all ranks.

“After the war it became a critical link for women to find out about their menfolk, especially as those who used Talbot House had to fill in the visitors book there.

“Talbot House still exists today as a museum but also as an international movement known as Toc H.”

In Love and War comes out on January 25.

On January 24, she launches the book at Red Lion Books from 6.30pm, and then on January 29 Liz will be at Waterstones, High Street, Colchester, at 7pm.

Tickets are £2, which can be booked by calling 01206 561307.