A: It seems like that to me too. I guess the one thing I'd say is, even though our world seems more and more dominated by technology, which is traditionally the bailiwick of science fiction, that makes fantasy more relevant rather than less so. For me fantasy is all about technology, not so much directly but by its absence -- Middle Earth and Narnia are images of England with the Industrial Revolution reversed, and all the technology subtracted. Fantasy is (among a lot of other things) about what technology does to us, and what we lose when we let it into our lives.
A: Lots of ways. Tons of ways. I've studied her books over and over and over again.
Definitely in terms of craft: there are few more meticulous builders of worlds and magic systems and plots than JK Rowling. She is the queen of the detailed outline and the well-chosen constraint and the little-detail-that-pays-off-later.
She also writes about magic in a way that is largely secular. Magic comes from inside you, from emotions. I depended a lot on that idea when I wrote The Magicians. And her books are also joyful and addictive. She knows everything about giving readers pleasure. It's something about aspire to too.
And then in a funny way I used her as a sounding-board when I wrote The Magicians. Not in reality, obviously, because I don't know her in the slightest (although I did meet her once), but in my imagination -- I imagined The Magicians almost as a letter to her, and to CS Lewis, about how much I loved their work, and also about the ways in which my life was different from the worlds they described.
A: This is a really interesting question. And surprisingly hard to answer.
Because I do think about the marketplace sometimes, at least in the sense that I think about the audience I'm writing for, and what they want and need. I don't write novels just for myself, I think of myself as an entertainer, or at any rate a performer. I'm trying to communicate with people. There are writers who'll say that thinking about the marketplace is death for a writer, but to me that feels a bit like sticking your head in the sand. You're writing a novel but you're also making a product, that people are going to buy and consume (or not). You don't pander to the marketplace, but you don't pretend that it doesn't exist either.
AND YET the really deep important bones and organs of a novel never come from outside, they come from inside, when you stop thinking about the marketplace.