As a mystery writer, I am always faced with the predicament of using existing places. This morning I was working on proof reading A Scandal in Stresa (a task I hate, by the way) before sending it along to my editor. I got to a passage where I had Elspeth Duff and Lord Kennington having lunch in a restaurant in London near Covent Garden. I described an existing restaurant accurately, for the most part, but did not want to give its name for fear of violating any business trademark issues or committing copyright infringement in some way. I also did not want to promote the restaurant without the owner’s permission. Consequently, the restaurant goes nameless, and I changed some of the details of the establishment for masking purposes.
Many places I put in my books are similar to existing places. Sometimes I go looking for suitable places and incorporate them, fictionally, into the story. At other times I image the place and, when I visit the area, go to see if similar places exist. Almost always they do. If not, as an author of fiction, I give my imagination full rein. I try, however, to avoid the implausible.
I also am careful in writing the disclaimer on the copyright page of the book. How embarrassing it would be for me if readers went to places I have described and demanded entry or confirmation that the place was the actual location was used in my books. I have a friend who lives in an historic house and has had this happen. She finds it quite annoying.