When you start a novel, you have to make a couple broad decisions about setting.
First: Should your work take place in an everytown? Something most readers can relate to. Or a specific setting? Somewhere to draw readers into.
Second: Do you want a real setting? NYC, Boston, etc. Or a fake or fictionalized setting?
I don’t think any choice is better than the other, it’s all about the execution and what’s right for that particular work.
For Clarity, I knew I wanted the setting to be an important part of the book, almost like another character. Due to the nature of my main character’s family business, I thought a tourist town would work well. I chose Cape Cod simply because I know it well and love it. My father is from Hyannis and has told me stories about the pros and cons of being a teenager in a tourist town. I grew up about 40 minutes from the bridge so we spent tons of weekends down there, especially in the summer. And I do the same with my own family today.
But now that my heart was set on Cape Cod, I had another decision to make. Real town or fake? If I went real, I probably would have gone with South Yarmouth or Hyannis. But I decided to create a fictional town. (Locals may be able to identify some of real places that inspired the settings, though!)
My main reason was that there were particular places I wanted to write into the book that did not exist in real life. And I know it takes some readers out of the story if they run up against a place in a real town that does not exist in reality. (For instance, my father went cuckoo bananas a few years ago because a book put an MBTA station in a town where there is no station. Yes, it was fiction. And Dad loved the book. But he couldn’t get over this fictional MBTA station.)
So I created the town of Eastport, MA. I was free to use some real spots on the Cape (from any town) and invent new places. For example, the 7-Eleven in chapter two is the 7-Eleven in West Yarmouth.
But the boardwalk is fictional (though inspired by the Weirs Beach Boardwalk in Laconia, New Hampshire).
And that’s how Eastport came to be!