I tend to set my books in one of two places: fictional worlds/towns that I create, or cities that I know and love. With Hazards I did both. I set it in Charleston, SC and on a fictional college campus.
My first visit to Charleston was after my sophomore year of college. My boyfriend (now husband) was working in the city for the summer. I flew down to visit a few times that summer and fell in love with the beautiful and historical city. I loved the architecture, the foliage, and the unique feel. It had similarities to New Orleans (where we were attending college), but it was also completely different. I loved the combination of southern charm and coastal living.
Even years later, I still get excited about visiting Charleston, and we make multiple trips there a year. Hazards is actually the second book/series I set there. My YA Fantasy series, The Afterglow Trilogy, is also set in Charleston.
I decided to create a fictional college, because I already set a book series on my own college campus (Tulane in the Crescent Chronicles), and I wanted the flexibility to create exactly what I envisioned. I briefly considered using the College of Charleston, but I dismissed that idea early on. In the end, I created Harrison University, a fairly typical private southern university located in downtown Charleston. I needed this school to have a substantial Greek community (as in fraternities and sororities), and for it to attract students from both the south and north. The entire book takes place in Charleston (or at a beach house just outside of the city), except for a trip to Savannah. I didn’t get to delve into Savannah too much, but I have a feeling I’ll be using it as a setting for another book in the future.