I tend to use a lot of small-town settings in my books. Not that I haven’t lived in cities — hello, San Diego, miss you a lot! I just prefer small towns. I’m happy living in one — well, outside one — and most of my characters are, too.
Some readers — based on discussions I’ve read — seem to equate “small town” with “perfect, Norman Rockwell, saccharine-sweet.” None of my small towns have been that way, though my Bethlehem books come closest. (Hey, there were angels! It was supposed to be sweet!)
I’ve never chosen books to read based on the settings (though there was a time when I’d read anything set in New Orleans), so I was surprised to find out that some readers do. I look for a good story in a realistic setting. That’s all I ask. Though I do want a setting. I’ve read a few books that were deliberately placed in an anonymous city or town. I didn’t like it.
What about you? Does setting matter? Do you think small-town equals perfect while big city equals bad? Do you have a preference for small town over big city or vice versa? Or one for real places versus fictional? Or does it matter at all to you?