I feel that setting is very important in a book. It gives it that extra bit of life when the right setting surrounds the characters.Many of my books have been set in real places, others I created a town just because it’s more fun that way and I can do whatever I want with it. Or I’ll use a general area for my own purposes.
I love small town settings with eccentric characters, a place with history and an old feel to it. I wrote one Harlequin American Romance, Mommy Heiress, set it in a small Kansas town and created a town that had a little of everything. Here we have a wealthy Southern California debutante who’s been stripped of her credit cards and stuck in a small town. Total fish out of water and turned into a lot of fun to write. I also wrote a book set in Salem, MA where magic is hinted at and the heroine had an accused witch in her family history. It's also fun to make the setting out of a character's element and I've done that many times.
I like to think the settings and the characters go together. Surroundings have a personality all their own and it’s fun to set that up to make that perfect fit between setting and characters.Excellent example is Jazz in 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover. Jazz may be over 700 years old, but there’s parts of her that’s a child at heart. Hence, her love of the boardwalk and the rides there. It seemed fitting she live near the boardwalk where she can indulge her Ferris wheel and roller coaster ride addiction. She’d be a total Southern California witch, while her fellow witches Stasi and Blair, prefer their small mountain town which has more than their share of eccentric, and parnormal, creatures there. But you'll have to wait until next March to find out about them.
I also love ghost towns. When I was little we spent a lot of vacations exploring ghost towns in California, Nevada and Arizona. And I have just the right story for a ghost town.
What about you? Do you believe settings are important in the books you read/write? Do you like strong word pictures to help you visualize a book?