I've always been an enormous fantasy and science fiction fan, and that's what I read most of, but I do love lots of other books too, and I think every writer has to read widely. I've read some great mysteries, romances and literary novels in recent years. And, of course, I try to read as much Middle Grade as I possibly can, of all genres.
Yes, absolutely. Although there are plenty of great book blogs and review sites like Goodreads around, and people hear about books through word of mouth, when most people (including me) go into a bookstore, we don't know what we're going to buy. The thing that makes you pick up a book in the first place before anything else is the cover. I don't think anyone *buys* a book because of the cover, but covers are what draw them in in the first place. Covers have to tell you what kind of book you're getting and what type of story it's telling, they have to stand out from across the store, and they have to make you want to pick the book up. And they have to do it all in a split second. It's only when they manage that that you make the decision to find out what the book is about and maybe read a bit of it. A cover really can make or break a book.
Right now I'm writing a proposal for a third book in the SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB series. The second book, which will be called THE EMPEROR OF MARS, is going to come out at the beginning of 2017, and I'm going to pitch a third book to my publisher to see if she wants it. I've also started work on a completely unrelated Middle Grade fantasy with wizards, murder, and mystery, set in England in the 1930s. That's still in the early stages, so we'll see where it goes.