Why mid-May? That's when I'm off to a European capital on a conference related mainly to the day-job (although some aspects of the discussions can be related to other, currently less lucrative, work). While there, I'm hoping to have some time to explore, and ideally to find inspiration for an urban fantasy short story. The city in question isn't one commonly associated with genre fiction or English language fiction of any kind, which may be to my advantage.
I'm one of those people that can only really write about places I know: as far as the here and now goes anyway. Writing other worlds even, I find that I'm writing familiar settings, tweaked just enough to become somewhere only recognisable to me as where it once was. Fortunately I've travelled a lot, and have a good memory that is easily boosted by pictures and descriptions.
Having fallen for a place, and decided I want to write a story set there, I often go back several times to learn as much as I can about its character and inhabitants. Hopefully this can be conveyed to readers as a series of minor details that build up a picture as vivid as my memories, without overwhelming the story taking place over the setting.
Other people seem able to research and then write about places without ever going there, and still build as realistic a setting.
How about you? Can you write about places you've never visited, or do you prefer familiar settings? If you realise that you know the setting for a story better than the author does, are you thrown out of the story? What makes for a good setting?