I love this question because I think where a story takes place is very important. You want the story to feel real, and one of the ways to do that is to describe the place authentically. Of course, you can make up a place and as long as you stay consistent, that works too. But with my published novels, I chose places I knew well. Then, I build upon those settings and use fake high school names, street names, etc., to build the perfect setting.
The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren takes place in the Denver suburbs, where I moved in the second grade and lived until college (but I went to Colorado State, which is only an hour and a half north). I enjoyed writing about a place I know inside and out, putting in little shout-outs to the Broncos, the Rocky Mountains, etc.
My second Ro-Com, Miss Match, is set in Salt Lake City. There don't seem to be very many books set in Utah, and I wanted to shed light on the amazing place I live in now. Right after college, I got married to a Utah native and now we live in a beautiful town about an hour north of SLC. We're surrounded by 3 ski resorts, a lake, and a river. I put some local tidbits in my story, and it's been fun getting feedback from the people who live here. (The photo to the left shows some of the scenery I enjoy every day.)
As for my third novel (not a Ro-Com, but still with Simon Pulse), I needed a setting that was steeped in religion--the Bible Belt. I was born in Houston (where I lived until 2nd grade) but I wanted a smaller town setting, somewhere where everybody knew everybody's business. So I decided to set it in East Texas, where my parents are from and where my dad and other relatives still live. I was there a couple of years ago so to make sure my settting details rang true, I ran them by my relatives. The main character, Poppy, and her mom move from Boulder, Colorado to Pleasant Acres, Texas (I made up the town name, but it looks a lot like this photo from a real East Texas town) to start a new life, and I think (I hope) it works well. You'll have to let me know! Lifted comes out June 8! (Click HERE to learn more about this book.)
Basically, I choose settings that work best for the story I'm telling and that I can write about with a sense of authenticity.
As a reader, I think it's fun to read a book that is set somewhere familiar to me, such as Nicole Burnham's Scary Beautiful (Colorado), but it's also fun to read a book that takes place somewhere I've never been or somewhere that doesn't really exist. What about you?