Q&A With Eric Weintraub

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Q&A With Eric Weintraub

I have the honor and privilege of doing this Q&A with Eric Weintraub. Eric Weintraub’s debut novel South of Sepharad: The 1492 Jewish Expulsion from Spain will be released on February 20th of this year! I can’t wait to read it! 

Q: Eric, would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I about South of Sepharad, & why you chose to have this historical fiction novel take place during the Spanish Inquisition?

A: South of Sepharad is a historical fiction novel based on the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, a true event that took place in 1492 Spain. The story follows Vidal, a Jewish physician from Granada who attempts to flee Spain with his family and community to escape the threat of execution posed by the Spanish Inquisition. 

I set the novel during the Spanish Inquisition because I wanted to shed more light on the 1492 Expulsion. Despite growing up in a Jewish household and attending Hebrew school, I never heard of the Expulsion until adulthood — and I only had the vaguest impression of what really took place during the Inquisition as well. From what I can tell, I’m not alone. I think many people have a passing familiarity with the Expulsion, but I think the details and importance of the event have fallen out of knowledge of the public. Setting the novel during this time allowed me to learn about the Expulsion and Inquisition through the process of writing. I hope the book provides newfound access to this time period for readers as well.

Q: Historical fiction is one of my many favorite genres to read. What made you choose to write in the historical fiction genre?

A: The choice to write this novel had everything to do with subject matter. I wanted to tell this story, and everything related to the genre and time period was in the service of that. Fortunately, it did work to my advantage that historical fiction is a genre I love to read. I knew I had found the right project because South of Sepharad was a book I would have wanted to read even if I hadn’t written it.

 Q: How long did it take for you to write South of Sepharad? What was the research process like when researching and writing the novel?


A: South of Sepharad took me two years of consistent writing and three major drafts before I sent it out on submission. I continued to make smaller edits while sending the manuscript to publishers and agents – a process that took another year. After my publisher, History Through Fiction picked up the novel for publication, I spent another six months working with the editor to arrive at the final draft.

Researching a story that was 500 years old and not widely written about was a challenge. Fortunately, I found several extremely informative history books on the topic of the Expulsion and the Inquisition. In addition, I researched how Jewish customs practiced in 1492 differed from Judaism practiced today. Since my protagonist is a doctor, I also needed to understand how medicine worked in 1492.

I visited most of the locations in the novel to get the lay of the land. I’m lucky that many of the buildings and neighborhoods that existed in southern Spain in 1492 still exist today. That allowed me to better take in the kinds of sensory details my characters experience on the page.

It was common to research and write simultaneously. Oftentimes, I wouldn’t know what sort of questions I needed to ask in my research until I stumbled upon them in the drafting process, and then I’d continue my research approach to find the answers I needed to complete a scene.

Q: Eric, what lessons do you hope readers learn after reading South Of Sepharad? 

A: I’ll refrain from saying too much because I’m curious to hear what lessons readers take away from the novel. If I were to offer one thing to contemplate: this novel is set 532 years in the past, but the story of the Expulsion still feels relevant today. Vidal and his family encounter mass migration, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and the forced separation of families — all situations that feel current in 2024, regardless of geographic location. As readers discover South of Sepharad, I hope they’ll contemplate how Vidal’s situation is relevant to today and why history keeps repeating itself.

Q: If you are currently writing your next historical fiction novel, will it also take place during the Spanish Inquisition, or will it take place in another historical period entirely?

A: Right now, I’m working on a novel that takes place in contemporary Los Angeles, my hometown. But I do have a couple other ideas for historical fiction novels I want to pursue. I have no current plans for another novel about the Inquisition. However, in my research I came across many names and events of prominent Jews who played important roles in pre-Inquisition Spain and their stories have captured my imagination. There’s so much history in this corner of the world that I feel has been underexplored in literature. I think it will lend itself well to future writing projects.