Markus Zusak was born in Sydney, Australia.  Zusak was born to an Austrian father and a German mother, both of whom experienced World War II firsthand in their native countries. He began his career writing young adult novels.

Zusak has stated that The Book Thief was unlike anything he had written before and it was largely influenced by the stories his parents told him about their experiences in Munich and Vienna during the war.

Cass, T. Justin, 2009, 'The Book Thief', GradeSaver classic notes, p. 1