Mal Peet has said he has grown up in an emotionally impaired family , living on a council estate and says the three things that kept him sane were his bike, books, and football; as bikes took him great distances, and books took him further away to places like islands. By the time he was 16 he was playing at least three full matches a week - for his school, his county, and for his town.
Mal Peet studied English and American Studies at the University of Warwick. After graduating from university he tried teaching to start with but quit soon after. His second job was as a hospital mortuary. He moved to Devon as he liked the sound of it and worked on building sites. Later on he became a plumber, and eventually decided to write, only after he'd met his wife.
Contrary to many juvenile fiction authors, Mal Peet had no real interest in writing for children at first. It was only after he had children of his own that he began to sense the dynamic between the child and the story and the importance of getting it right. 
Hady El-Daour made him start term writing and illustrating in the early 1990s. His wife, Elspeth, lives with him in Exmouth, Devon and helps him write and illustrate. Mal Peet and his wife have produced many educational picture books for young children. Many of Mal Peet's cartoons have also appeared in magazines.
He has so far produced 4 novels including, Keeper (2003), which won the Branford Boase Award, his second which was Tamar (2005); a World War II story which won the 2005 Carnegie medal, The Penalty (2006), and his most current piece, Exposure (2008).