West Bath
Siem Riep
Sri Lanka
Czech Republic
Bora Bora
Porto Alegre
Sao Paulo
San Nicolas
Hong Kong


Huffington Post: 5 International Business Tips for Entrepreneurs and Other Brave Souls

imgresInternational business is a hot topic today. After an unsuccessful attempt six year ago, Coke is even making another stab at an acquisition in China, this time a maker of juices with interesting flavors like walnut, red bean, and oats. But making and selling a product or providing services in a market outside the U.S. can be especially challenging. Continue reading

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on Huffington Post: 5 International Business Tips for Entrepreneurs and Other Brave Souls

Interview with NY Times Bestselling Author Tess Gerritsen

gerritsen150Internationally bestselling author Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A graduate of Stanford University, Tess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was awarded her M.D.

While on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction. In 1987, her first novel was published. Call After Midnight, a romantic thriller, was followed by eight more romantic suspense novels. She also wrote a screenplay, “Adrift”, which aired as a 1993 CBS Movie of the Week starring Kate Jackson.

Tess’s first medical thriller, Harvest, was released in hardcover in 1996, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list.

Her series of novels featuring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles inspired the TNT television series “Rizzoli & Isles” starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.

Now retired from medicine, she writes full time. She lives in Maine.

Tess was kind enough to answer a few questions about her writing:

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

When I was seven years old.  I was an avid reader as a kid, and by age seven was already writing my own stories.


What is your biggest challenge when it comes to writing?

Figuring out how to tie together all the scenes I’ve already written into a coherent climax and resolution.  I often don’t know who the villain is until I’m about 2/3 through the first draft.


What piece of your writing portfolio are you most proud of? 

I’m proudest of my stand-alone novels BONE GARDEN and GRAVITY.

How has writing changed your perspective on other things?

I pay attention to stories all around me.  I think it’s made me more curious about a whole range of topics.  When I travel, I open my eyes and ears to the odd and peculiar or unexplainable, all the little details that make me think: “What if…?”


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on book #12 in the “Rizzoli & Isles” crime series.

For readers who are unfamiliar with your books, what title would you recommend they read first? 

If they’re interested in crime novels, then I recommend they start with THE SURGEON, as it’s #1 in the Rizzoli & Isles series.  If they’re interested in history, then I recommend BONE GARDEN.

RF Hemphill is a former CEO of a multi-billion dollar global electric power and distribution company and is the author of Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine & Commerce from a Globe-Trekking Executive.

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on Interview with NY Times Bestselling Author Tess Gerritsen

Welcome to the World of International Business! … Now what?!

UntitledR.F. Hemphill // 22 February 2015

So you’ve done well in the United States, you’ve gotten things done for your company, you’ve learned the corporate standards and products and services and sales pitches and excuses and competition. And the boss likes you and thinks you have great promise, but you need some international experience. You love the idea, but you’ve never been much past Peoria, not that this isn’t an interesting city. Here are some lessons and advice.

No matter how well you prepare, and how much stuff you read, there will be many surprises. The first time I took on an international assignment – “go develop and build a power plant in Perth” — I found that there were both dumb surprises and interesting surprises.  In the first category comes the “gosh, it sure takes a long time to get places” reaction.  I was not an international innocent.  I had lived in Japan for four years as an Air Force dependent, I had been in Vietnam, I had done small amounts of government travel to conferences in Europe, I had visited my parents in Hawaii where they had retired.  And yet I had to look up which country Perth was in. On my first trip to Australia, I flew from Washington to Los Angeles, where we had some business.  Several days later I flew to Hawaii and spent a day with my folks.  Then I got on the plane to Perth, routed via Taipei, Bangkok, and Sydney.  I figured it was now just a couple more hours to Australia.  Not exactly. It took forever, 36 hours to be exact, all in tourist class.  With bleary eyed layovers in each of the three in-route cities.  Sydney to Perth was equivalent to flying across the US.  The distances never changed, I just got smarter and paid much more attention to the routing and the scheduling of departure and arrival times.

One of the most interesting surprises was how important it was, in every place in which we worked, to have an official company person on the ground, living and working not just in the country, but in the province and in the city.  The information flow was enabled, but more important, we finally figured out, was the demonstration of our commitment to the project in that particular location.  Local and national government officials, and local and national suppliers and service providers, were ever so much more cooperative when they saw us as committed to the country and the location.  Finding people willing to move to some of these places was not easy, but once we saw how important it was, we made it a priority for promotion in the company, and we made sure that when people came back from Cheng-du or Ekibastuz or Yaoundé they were put in good jobs and received promotions.  Building relationships is essential to successful business in every country, and you just don’t do that by flying in and out, no matter how charming you are.

Here’s another surprise: you don’t need a “Local Partner.” All the “International Business” courses in all the business schools I am familiar with teach you that the very first thing you do in going to a foreign country is “Find a Local Partner.” This partner should know your business intimately, be well connected politically, be successful in his or her own country, have the highest ethical standards, and be completely devoted to the success of your company. And you’re supposed to get this person the minute you step off the plane. Well sure, why not? This is advice similar to “you should have a perfect wife.” Right. Where do you get one? And if this “partner” is so perfect, why exactly does he need you?

You don’t need a Local Partner, and in fact you can get in trouble having one, especially on the touchy issue of business practices, i.e., paying people off. Local partners may be perfectly comfortable with local customs such as bribery, but that won’t meet the requirements of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Besides, it’s a bad idea regardless. You do need local advisers, and local counsel, and so on, but not a “partner.” They’re too hard to find, they’re an unnecessary crutch, and they’re hard to get rid of.

When you actually end up with business abroad, then there are two related and important but seemingly contradictory pieces of advice:  Don’t complain that you’re not living in the US any more, and do enjoy the differences and the opportunities a foreign location presents. However, never forget that your business skills and experience and values are why you’re there.  Don’t be satisfied with answers that make no sense, with practices that are counter to what you know to be world class, or with delivery schedules and staffing levels that are not as good as what you would find in a similar location or business unit in the US. Don’t be taken in by the “this is how we do things in our country” sort of responses that you will hear too often.  There is no reason that people in [fill in the blank] country cannot perform at the level you would expect in the US—all it takes is leadership, management and resources.  Well, it also does take a bit of time for these expectations to yield results, and more training and encouragement than you expect, but it’s possible anywhere with enough persistence.  Safety is a good example.  We never changed our safety expectations in our power plants, no matter where they were, and we eventually got safety performance across the company (Cameroon, Bulgaria, Pakistan, etc.) that was at the same level as US electric utility averages.  And way better than the averages in the country where our plant or plants were.

Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, one of the very first things you should do before you even set foot in Gazikistan, is to call the US Embassy.  I started out with very low expectations that State Dept. bureaucrats were of any value at all, let alone useful to our specific business.  But that bias was rapidly disproved.  The commercial attaches we dealt with were routinely responsive, knowledgeable and helpful.  Of course they didn’t know the nuts and bolts of the power business, but they knew the service providers and the political process and even the general outlines of the regulatory and permitting regimes.  And they were free!  It is an excellent resource for anyone with a commercial mandate who is entering a new country. And you might as well use it, you’re paying for it.

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on Welcome to the World of International Business! … Now what?!

Huffington Post: Ways Smart Utility Companies Can Join the Renewable Revolution (Rather than Opposing it and Ending Up as Road Kill)

Posted: R.F. Hemphill


So, Mr. or MS. CEO, your business is being threatened by a new technology, and competitors who can make your product more cheaply than you can are arising to steal your market. To make matters worse they’re not in China; the competitors are in the form of your formerly docile domestic customers, for goodness sake! So what do you do?

Part one of this discussion addressed 6 Facts About the Impending Renewable Energy Revolution. Part two focused on 5 Reasons Utility Companies Hate Renewables. As a former senior policy official at the Department of Energy and Deputy Manager of Power at the Tennessee Valley Authority and also someone who spent the better part of three decades developing a startup global electric power and distribution company into a company with $18 billion a year in annual revenue and power plants now in 21 countries, I have a very unique perspective on this topic. So now I want to share 4 ways utilities can join the renewable revolution instead of being left behind.

1. Fight fire with fire. There is no reason that you cannot go into the solar or wind business yourself as a utility, and some have started doing this. Duke Energy, for example, is working on developing renewable and efficient power to help customers manage their energy costs. You need the cooperation of your regulator to let you put this new set of capital investments into your business and charge your customers for it, but you have built in advantages over some poor HVAC installer trying to switch from putting air conditioners on pads to panels on roofs. But this initiative will only work well if you need more generation, and since US Kwh consumption is growing very slowly — only 0.9 percent last year — the regulator may well disapprove this plan. And this despite the fact that your customers will continue to merrily festoon their rooftops with solar panels.

2. Grow the market for your product — There is a wonderful opportunity coming down the road, so to speak — electric cars. Yes, current oil prices are at a six year low, but almost no one believes this will last, and batteries, as mentioned earlier, are getting better and cheaper. This plus climate change concerns inevitably lead to more and more plug in hybrids and full battery powered electric vehicles. You will benefit from this, even if you do nothing, as all those cars will need daily charging. Anything you can do to move this along, like investing in a network of convenient charging stations in your service territory, will put you ahead of the game and preserve your business. And this investment will please your regulator, and is one that very few other businesses have the money or talent to undertake.

3. Expand your business horizons. Water is the next coming crisis. Unfortunately water has been “the next coming crisis” for thirty years or so, but now maybe it really is. California and many western states are in the worst shape, water wise, they have been for years, and there is little reason to think this will change soon. The best solution, after conservation, is desalination systems. And both of the principle technologies — low pressure flash desal and reverse osmosis (“RO”) desal, use lots of electricity. The first kind is usually tied to the waste heat of a power plant and so has limited flexibility, but RO systems can function anywhere that there’s salty water. It is perhaps useful to point out that fracking uses a large amount of saline water that when spent currently is reinjected into deep brineous aquifers, at much expense. It is not difficult to imagine setting up RO systems to solve both the potable water availability problems of the western US, and a portion of the environmental problems associated with fracking. The RO systems are big and complicated and capital intensive, and thus a natural for a utility, who can now make both the power and the water that a developed country needs.

4. Cannibalize your neighbors. If you’re stuck in a state with a backward regulatory system, and you can’t build solar or wind and put it in your own rates, then go next door and start stealing the customers of the next utility over. You will need to do this in a non-regulated part of your business, but most utilities have long since established such structures, so this is not a problem. You could even consider buying one of the competing solar rooftop companies to do this, like one of Solar City’s smaller competitors, Vivint Solar or SunRun for example. Your business next door will grow as it diminishes in your home state, and maybe at some point your regulator will come to his senses.

No business likes to fail, and no business likes to change, especially ones that have had the luxury of a monopoly franchise for a product which is critical to modern society. Today’s utility doesn’t have to fail, and can even lower the long run costs to its customers. But if the leadership doesn’t move quickly and aggressively to meet the challenges of the Renewable Revolution, the next CEO will, and he or she will be there soon.

RF Hemphill is a former CEO of a multi-billion dollar global electric power and distribution company and is the author of Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine & Commerce from a Globe-Trekking Executive.

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on Huffington Post: Ways Smart Utility Companies Can Join the Renewable Revolution (Rather than Opposing it and Ending Up as Road Kill)

Huffington Post: 5 Reasons Utility Companies Hate Renewables


imgresAs noted in part one of this topic (6 Facts About the Impending Renewable Energy Revolution), solar and other renewables have become more and more competitive with traditional ways of generating electricity. And these cost advantages can be easily translated to the customer level. Now you can use these technologies to take control of your own electric supply, regardless of what your local electric distribution company does.

As previously mentioned, I am a former senior policy official at the Department of Energy and Deputy Manager of Power at the Tennessee Valley Authority and I spent the better part of three decades flying 4 million miles on United as I developed a startup global electric power and distribution company into a company with $18 billion a year in annual revenue and power plants now in 21 countries.

That being said, here are 5 reasons why utility companies hate renewables:

1. Bigger used to be better. Utilities have thrived over the last sixty five years by building bigger and bigger power plants, based on the reasonable principle that there are economies of scale in bigness, and fuel costs were trivial. You couldn’t build a power plant in your back yard at any reasonable cost, never mind how mad your neighbors would be. But all of that has changed. Solar especially is a technology where scale doesn’t matter, or at least it doesn’t matter nearly as much as in other technologies. Photovoltaic panels are small, stand alone power plants that can be installed anywhere that there’s enough sun to make them effective. Small wind machines are also moving down the cost curve, although they have more challenges for installation at the residential level.

2. It’s cheaper to run wind and solar plants than it is to run traditional sources of generation, even at the residential level. The absence of fuel costs is obvious, but the operating and maintenance requirements are much lower as well. You can put a small natural gas fired generating set in your basement, but you’ll need engineering and maintenance and careful attention to ventilation, and other complications. Solar panels on your roof have no such requirement, and this is a very attractive feature.

3. The solar industry has matured. There are lots of solar installers around to offer their services. This is no longer an experimental technology, or one only for the environmental nuts, or something you do just to impress your neighbors. It’s here, it works, and it’s getting cheaper and cheaper. The same cannot be said for the electricity from your local supplier.

4. You are pretty likely to save money if you make your own power. The price your utility charges you for energy is always complicated, and not more than two or three customers out of a hundred understand their applicable “rate schedule.” Before the Arabs started the energy crisis and the Mideast became an unending headache, your kilowatt-hour price came down per unit as you used more electricity–think volume discount. This mimicked the utilities’ costs. But that cost structure hasn’t been true for a long time, and rates have been adjusted so that you pay MORE per unit as your consumption goes up. In San Diego, for example, there are four price levels, from 17, 20, 37 and 39 cents, which increase as more electricity is used. This clearly encourages customers to use less rather than more.

5. All this creates a real night mare for the industry. Utilities fundamentally are in business to sell electricity. Having pricing that discourages consumption of your only product is bad enough. Now having a technology that is available and attractive to customers,
t article: 4 Ways Smart Utility Can Join the Renewable Revolution Rather than Opposing it and Ending Up as Road Kill.

RF Hemphill is a former CEO of a multi-billion dollar global electric power and distribution company and is the author of Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine & Commerce from a Globe-Trekking Executive.

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on Huffington Post: 5 Reasons Utility Companies Hate Renewables

Nonfiction Book Awards Gold Medal Winner!

imgresThank you to the Nonfiction Authors Association for a gold medal in the Nonfiction Book Awards! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed reading my tales in Dust Tea, Dingoes and Dragons.


Book Award Winner: Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons

Published on March 24, 2015 by

Nonfiction Book Award Status: Gold Award

Title: Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons

Author Name: R.F. Hemphill

dust tea dingoes & dragons cover imageBuy the book at Amazon.
Jet lags, boardrooms, and high pressure deals – that’s what doing international business brings to mind. But there’s way more to it than that.

And a lot of it makes us laugh in the process.

Sharing a series of letters sent to his father during his decade of traveling the world building a billion-dollar company, Hemphill illuminates the always practical, sometimes poignant, and often funny ways we must connect if business is to be done.

“If they served you camel hooves for dinner, and you didn’t know it until you asked, what part of the camel did you have for breakfast?” 

“In Islamabad hotels, you must sign a form certifying that you are an infidel and will assuredly go to hell, in order to get room service to bring you a drink. Is this form binding if you die outside of Pakistan?” 

“Can you really claim to be in the movie industry if you don’t dress all in black, have a small pony tail, wear an earring, have an idea for a screen play, and harbor a desire to meet Meryl Streep?” 

“Cinemas in the Czech Republic serve bacon-flavored popcorn. Why can’t we get that in the US? It’s even better than cheese-flavored popcorn. The whole movie theater smells like breakfast.” 

Millions of people around the world travel for business. But how many of us take the time to truly appreciate what we observe and experience? Dust tea, dingoes, & dragons is a lesson in the meshing of cultures, the diplomacy of building business relationships, and, ultimately, of living life to the fullest, no matter what they’re feeding you.

And besides, it’s a really funny business book. When was the last time you read one of those?

Author Bio:

R.F. Hemphill has worked in the energy business since the 1973 oil embargo, including stints at the Tennessee Valley Authority, thirty-five years as a senior executive at AES, a global electric power corporation, and as CEO of Silver Ridge Power, a leading solar company. He was educated at Yale and UCLA, and in Vietnam as an infantry platoon leader. He has survived airborne and Special Forces training, and four million miles on United. He lives in southern California without a dog.

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on Nonfiction Book Awards Gold Medal Winner!

Huffington Post: 6 Facts About the Impending Renewable Energy Revolution


Thanks to Huffington Post for running my article on the future of renewable energy.



There is good news about renewable energy, and it matters to all electricity consumers — which means all of us.

So why am I qualified to share these facts with you?

In addition to being a former senior policy official at the Department of Energy and Deputy Manager of Power at the Tennessee Valley Authority, I spent the better part of three decades flying 4 million miles on United as I developed a startup global electric power and distribution company into a company with $18 billion a year in annual revenue and power plants now in 21 countries.

So here are six FACTS about the impending renewable energy revolution:

1. Most of what is called “renewable energy” is hydro, geothermal, wind and solar, with the last two being by far the largest. Big wind and solar plants are now cheaper to build than coal or nuclear plants — the mainstays of utility generation. This is a major change from only a few years ago. In 2008, solar panels cost $3500 per Kw, with installation costs adding another $3500, for a total of about $7000 per Kw. Coal plants cost half that, nuclear projections were about $5000 per kw. Today’s solar and wind plants can be built for about $1600 per Kw, and the nation’s largest manufacturer of thin film panels, FirstSolar, projects reaching a cost level of less than $1000 by 2017.

2. Renewable energy is NOT going to provide lots of jobs. There are some construction jobs, but many are low skilled. After it’s built, all you need is a few technicians monitoring the plant’s output. You don’t need the large group of plant operators and maintenance people, three shifts a day, all day, year-round, that a fossil or nuclear plant needs.

3. Traditional power plants take forever to site and build. They have big footprints, they are difficult to put near customers, and they generally require extensive local, state and national permitting. Solar can fit in just about anywhere — all you need is roof space or a reasonable piece of more or less flat and unshaded ground. These installations can be put into densely populated areas just fine. The Europeans have limited space, but have put wind and solar in small installations in many places, some of them ingenious, including rooftop solar for car parks and wind machines on waste dumps. Solar panels are fast and easy to install. Once the frame is set up, all that’s needed is to put the panel down, tighten four screws, and make a simple plug-in electrical connection. That’s far easier than replacing the water heater in your home.

4. These things last. Solar panels really don’t break — they are just thin layers of silicon organized within an aluminum frame. If you take a sledge hammer to one or blast it with a shot gun, you will do some damage, but otherwise they just sit there and make electricity. Panels at test sites like the Argonne National Lab have been sitting outside and functioning for more than thirty years. The electrical conversion hardware, something called an inverter, may need occasional servicing, but it is simple and easy to replace. On rare occasions wind turbines lose a blade (two or three instances over the last twenty years) and wind turbine gear boxes and generators need routine lubrication and servicing, but they too have lasted longer than anticipated.

5. Renewables aren’t just for the desert southwest or windy mountain passes any more. Major solar installations have gone in on Long Island and North Carolina; wind is a mainstay in the Pacific Northwest, and very large installations are underway in the plains states. Germany now gets 5 percent of its generating capacity from solar and 7.5 percent from wind –and that country is not at all a particularly windy or sunny place. Remember all those Germans going to the Mediterranean during the summer! Little wonder that last year in the US, renewables were the largest source of new electric generation to come on line at 32 percent of new generating capacity in 2014 and that this was a 30 percent increase over 2013. The International Energy Agency, a conservative forecaster in the best of times, now projects that by 2050 solar power will rise to 27 percent of all electric generation, worldwide, and thus become the biggest single source of power.

6. You will hear that intermittency is a problem for wind and solar, since the sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind doesn’t always blow. But (surprise) it’s a problem for traditional plants, too. Big gas fired plants only have availability on average of 80 plus percent, and nuclear plants have to be shut down for three months or more for refueling every 18 to 24 months. For renewables, the problem is being rapidly solved by storage. Battery technologies are becoming cheaper and more efficient. Tesla has announced that it will make batteries for residential use which Solar City, the country’s biggest residential solar company, has begun to offer to its homeowner customers and to commercial scale micro-grids.

So, isn’t most of this good news? Wouldn’t we all want safer, more cost-effective renewable energy alternatives?

Proponents recognize that this is the first-time ever that the end-user is able to make their own power in an effectively and efficient manner.

Detractors (the utility companies) would argue that if enough people choose to use renewable energy they will not be able to afford to provide the rest of us with service.

So is this a real Catch 22, or is there a way for the utility companies and renewable energy companies to work together?

Look for me to explain in more detail in my next article: Why Do Utilities Hate Renewables?

RF Hemphill is a former CEO of a multi-billion dollar global electric power and distribution company and is the author of Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in Culture, Cuisine & Commerce from a Globe-Trekking Executive.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @globeroamingCEO

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on Huffington Post: 6 Facts About the Impending Renewable Energy Revolution

Three wonderful San Diego book launches this weekend

Had a great time hosting three book launches this weekend at Barnes & Noble stores around San Diego. Thank you to everyone who turned out to listen and talk with me! It was lovely outside and I was grateful for the chance to speak with the audiences who gathered inside to hear my stories.11127764_449195418581344_5423796036627072599_n

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on Three wonderful San Diego book launches this weekend

A bit belated — but Happy Easter to all!

Here I am, a proud cook, with my festive creations: two-layered jello and an Easter lambcake. Doesn’t everyone make these in celebration?
unnamed unnamed-1

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on A bit belated — but Happy Easter to all!

Rancho Santa Fe Review: ‘Dust Tea’ a memoir of more than 4 million miles around the globe


Thanks to the Rancho Santa Fe Review for running this story on Dust Tea and Q&A with yours truly!
Check out the story on their website:

By Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz11:51 a.m.March 30, 2015

Imagine logging over 4 million miles during a decade of turning an idea into a multibillion-dollar company. And along the way, imagine eating everything from camel hooves to silkworms and signing a form labeling you an infidel — all in order to do business in foreign lands.

Jet lag, boardrooms, and high-pressure deals are what international business usually brings to mind, but for San Diego author R.F. Hemphill, it all meant so much more.

And he has catalogued much of it in his sometimes poignant, often funny book, “Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in culture, cuisine & commerce from a globe-trekking executive.”

Travel the world with Hemphill — without ever leaving San Diego — at 11 a.m. April 11 at Barnes & Noble Encinitas, or at 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Grossmont, and at 2 p.m. April 12 at Barnes & Noble Mira Mesa.

• You worked in the energy business for two decades before you began writing the pieces that eventually became your book. What prompted you to write them? What was the catalyst?

We started our fledgling business in the U.S. but soon decided to become “international,” and I drew the black dot to lead the charge. Subsequently, I went to many odd places, and it all seemed so interesting and strange to me that I wanted to capture the experience and share it with my family, especially my father.

• When you began writing the letters to your dad, did you think of them as a potential book, or were they just letters?

I thought they were worth saving, because I enjoyed writing them, but I knew little about books or publishing. It was more about just collecting the experiences.

• What did you particularly wish to convey in those letters?

Several things: first, how the business parts worked, since my dad and my whole family were not business people. In fact, my dad would have much preferred me to be an Air Force officer, as he was. So, I wanted to educate him about what I was doing. Second, the exotic nature of the places and the characters charmed me, and I wanted to pass that on as well. Few in my family traveled, so this was my attempt to let them do so vicariously.


• How would you categorize your book, “Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons: Adventures in culture, cuisine & commerce from a globe-trekking executive”? For whom is it written?

It’s a mix of memoir, travel book, business book, but it’s not a “how to make a million dollars” book. Most of all it’s interesting and humorous. I haven’t seen many funny business books — at least not intentionally funny — so there’s not a good model. Maybe David Sedaris if he had gone to the Harvard Business School.

• You have been enormously successful in the energy business. At what point did you realize that success would, in part, depend on your ability to immerse yourself in various cultures?

Oh, goodness, from the first day on the job! We were a small startup, undercapitalized, with no experience in the industry, and no one had ever heard of us. So we had to convince people in large organizations to deal with us. And that meant understanding their culture and their processes and values and goals so we could tailor what we were doing to their needs. Every business must do this to some extent. That requirement all doubles or triples when you add in the variable of doing all this in a country that is not your own, in a language that has to be translated for you.

• What was most disappointing about your travels?

Despite all the fun I was having and the interesting things I was experiencing, I missed the ability to simultaneously share it with my wife — to share it in real time and in person.

• The funniest?

The food was always a challenge in the places where we were. Even English food is pretty awful, and unfortunately we weren’t doing business in Italy. And far more than in the U.S., the business people in the other countries had a much stronger tradition of socializing with their business partners. In Japan it meant going to drinking clubs where “hostesses” came to serve you. Understanding that these hostesses were completely asexual and untouchable was a neat trick. The Japanese were perfectly comfortable with this. The Americans found it hard to get their minds around. Eating silkworms in China was funny, especially if you had had enough to drink.

• What was the most surprising commonality?

At the end of the day, you had to have a business case that made sense for everyone, you had to meet a need of a customer, or the whole thing was a long airplane ride and a lot of strange food for nothing.

• What do you enjoy most about travel? Least?

It was fun to go to places I had not only never been to, but had never heard of and couldn’t even spell — Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan and Bhubaneshwar in India. And then I had to master all the elementary stuff — where to stay, how to call a cab, what was the money worth, and so forth. It was modern exploring. The least fun was the long plane rides, inevitably in a middle seat in tourist class. But I got a lot of reading done.

• At this point, do you think of yourself more as a businessman or a writer?

I hope that I am more of a writer, but I have a large amount of “businessman’s thinking” that’s useful, and that applies to the business of writing and publishing.

• What, to you, is the most difficult part of being a writer? The easiest?

The writing itself is really the easiest. If writing doesn’t come naturally for you, then you might not want to be in the writing business. Personally, I’d like to be point guard for the Celtics, but they don’t really need a short, slow guy who can’t shoot to fill that position.

The hardest part is getting your message out, trying to get what you have written into wider distribution and acknowledged by others. Just about everyone who has read this book, including people who are not my relatives, has liked it a lot. And I am still waiting for the New York Times book review editor to call.

• What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

The best advice I have ever seen came from Nora Roberts, although it is also attributed to others: “ass in the chair.” If you want to be a writer, you have to write.

• What do you hope readers take away from “Dust Tea, Dingoes & Dragons”?

I hope that they laugh out loud at least once in every chapter, and then show their companion what they’re reading, and then have a fight about who gets to read the book first.

• What are you working on now?

A definitive biography of St. Thomas Aquinas, set to hip-hop music. No, just kidding, it’s set to ecclesiastical music.

Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz are the team behind both Strategies Public Relations and the La Jolla Writer’s Conference (

Share and Enjoy
Posted in R.F. Hemphill | Comments Off on Rancho Santa Fe Review: ‘Dust Tea’ a memoir of more than 4 million miles around the globe