There's a bit of disagreement amongst writers, with the question of setting and its importance to a story. Some feel that setting, (or, place) is ALL-important. Others feel it's of minimal importance. Though I understand both ends of the spectrum, I actually fall somewhere in the middle.
To clarify - setting can include details such as weather, season, specific year (is it current, or 3 decades ago) -- all of which are important. But what I'm talking about is place. Where is the story/novel set? Is it in a tiny town? A bustling big city? A factory? A glitzy restaurant? A third-world country? It's the answer to the "Where Am I?" question readers need to have, in order to "place" the characters into a particular setting in their minds.
In the past, I've written a novel in which the city was sort of a fictional "Everytown." Where the characters/story superceded the city itself, in terms of importance. Though I gave the city a (made-up) name and added specific details about the surroundings, it hopefully felt like the story could take place in just about any average-sized city in America. I still feel comfortable with that decision, for that particular novel.
But the series I'm currently writing has a much heavier sense of "place." It's fictional, too, but it's very much based upon an actual town: Castle Combe, UK, a village in the Cotswolds, known as "the prettiest little village in England."
I admit it. I love England. I've been there only once, as a tourist, on a 3-week tour and I hope to go back someday. I love the accents, the music, the history, the literature. And I also admit, unabashedly, unapologetically, that in my series, the Cotswolds are extremely romanticized. My fictionalized village IS quaint. It DOES have little shops and cobblestone paths. It IS peaceful and serene. The villagers ARE mostly unified and are kind to each other (though they do love to gossip!). I understand fully that actual residents of Castle Combe would probably read my novel and roll their eyes at me or even chuckle. "That's not how things really are," they might say.
But the great thing is that, in a novel, using a fictionalized name, I can get away with it. I can be idealistic and make that village whatever I want it to be. And, in terms of "place," that particular village, in my head, is the perfect place to set my particular series. It just seems to work.
So, how important is place to you? It might vary, from story to story. But the beauty of it is that, as with any decisions you'll make as a writer, the choice is blissfully YOURS.