Troy Ball, the first woman ever licensed to distill hard liquor in North Carolina, uncorks an emotionally charged memoir about traversing family heartache to become the “moonshine mama” of the South in her book Pure Heart. Join her at Main Street Books for a reading, signing, and moonshine sampling.
In the art of making moonshine, “pure heart” refers to the elusive part of the distillation process when fermenting corn mash begins to yield the best part of “platinum whisky.” It also describes the fierce and unwavering love that Ball, founder and owner of Asheville Distilling Company, demonstrates caring for her wheelchair-bound sons, Marshall and Coulton. Born with severe health issues and prone to near-constant respiratory infections, the boys weren’t expected to live into their teen years. Ball refused to let that happen, and she also found a way to resurrect the entrepreneurial spirit her beloved father instilled in her when she was a girl running her own horse shows in Texas. Determined to give her kids a better chance far away from those dusty confines, however, Ball and her devoted husband, Charlie, packed up the family and moved to Asheville. Pure Heart tells their story with grace and poignancy.
Troy Ball Interview with Main Street Books
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Because memoir is classified as nonfiction, the burden of representation is greater as a memoirist’s work purports to paint an accurate picture of the very real people surrounding the author. Did this ever give you pause as you put pen to paper? Are there formative moments that you felt obligated to leave out of the book to protect the privacy of others?
TROY BALL: To be honest, writing my memoir was quite difficult and at times painful. I think it was the reliving of my life in accurate measure that made the process challenging. I did my best to be honest and not to hurt those I love, but sometimes the truth hurts, even when there is no intent to cause damage. I'm sure there were times in the telling of my story that I soften the impact of my words, to gain peace of mind for others as well as myself.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: How did you know when your book was finished? Have any of your thoughts about your narrative already evolved since publication?
TROY BALL: It was an interesting exercise, trying to decide where my story would end. We decided that this was a story about a woman finding her way, after raising her special needs sons, to found her own company as she neared the age of fifty. Once we could demonstrate that the company was on its way, we felt we could end the story. Of course, the saga continues, but that's another story.
So far, I remain happy with the way the story is told, and would only consider the inclusion of a few photos that might introduce the remarkable characters that helped me along the way.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Tell us about working with your co-author, Brett Witter. How did you find each other?
TROY BALL: Finding Bret Witter was a remarkable story in and of itself. Sometimes small acts of kindness come back to you in spades and that is what happened in this instance. I attended a Variety Magazine event in L.A. to pour whiskey for a few stars. While there, I met a young actor named Sean Herman who had a second job working as a bartender for private events. He told me that he had written a screen play and was trying to raise money to get it produced. He said he was having an event in New York to try to find investors and I offered to send whiskey to the Soho art gallery where his event was to take place. He was so happy with my little gift that he invited me to attend and, as chance would have it, I was going to be in New York that day. At his event, I met a Syrian immigrant who owned a PR company and I told him my story, which fascinated him. He emailed me the next day offering to introduce me to someone in the book world. The next day Peter McGuigan from Foundry Media contacted me. He told me he worked with many writers and he wanted to introduce me to one of his favorites. Three days later, I sat down with Bret Witter, and I knew I had my guy. He cried three times while listening, and I thought if anyone could help me tell my story with a kind heart it was him.
Postscript: My actor friend, Sean Herman, just got his story sold and will stay with me while they film outside of Austin. I love how life happens.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: What’s your favorite band right now?
TROY BALL: I love ColdPlay. Chris Martin, the lead singer, has become one of my many adopted sons. His dedication to my biological son Marshall is unsurpassed and full of tenderness. Chris is one of those rare individuals who is motivated to love and it comes through in his songs. After Chris, I have to say I adore Amos Lee. He is another one of my family’s many adopted sons.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Tell us about one of your most memorable customers at Troy and Sons.
TROY BALL: My most memorable customer for Troy & Sons is Disney World. I was told that they would never sell moonshine, since it has such a bad reputation. That was a challenge that I took quite literally. Within a year, they became fans of Troy & Sons and were selling our Platinum Moonshine at the Wilderness Lodge. It quickly became a best seller for them.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: If you weren’t a distiller, what would you be?
TROY BALL: If I weren't a distiller I would definitely be an artist. In fact, I have recently discovered that I can draw and paint. I'm fascinated by faces and love portraiture. Of course, that would be another labor of love.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: Best restaurant in Asheville, in your opinion?
Troy Ball: Asheville is loaded with tremendous restaurants. I always enjoy Chestnut, Curate, Table, Fig, Little Bee Thai, Moe's Barbecue, 12 Bones, and Tupelo Honey. But really the list of great restaurants is endless.
MAIN STREET BOOKS: How did you know your story was worth telling?
TROY BALL: Friends asked me to write my story. They thought I could be a model for families with special children and for women that have waited to pursue their dreams. I am motivated to help others as I can and Pure Heart gave me a platform to do so.