THE DECEPTION OF EMMETT S. SKIPPER
AKA: DYLAN WILSON
AKA: NATALIE LEITH
I feel compelled to give a brief history of my involvement with Emmett S. Skipper as both “his” ex-friend and publisher as I have already been asked by several people if I knew, and, if so, why hadn’t I warned people of “his” deceit?
Where to start?
Emmett S. Skipper was introduced to me by a mutual friend and fellow writer, Lily G. Blunt, at the time that Wayward Ink Publishing had an Open Call out for the Bollocks anthology which was to be our first release, timed to coincide with the UK GLBT Fiction Meet being held at Bristol in early June, 2014.
Lily G., who has a huge heart and has helped many aspiring as well as established writers, spoke to me about a young gay man she’d been doing beta work for in regard to his fanfiction writing who had a troubled past and low self-esteem and she asked if I would look at a submission from him as she felt it would be a boost for his confidence if he could have a story included. Out of respect for Lily G., who I admire greatly, both as a person and as a writer, I agreed.
The story submitted had good bones but was rough, showing the inexperience of the writer. I was concerned our Submissions Committee might reject it because it needed work so I did a light beta read on it for Emmett and helped “him” address the issues I raised.
With the slight bit of polishing that I had assisted with No Worries Mate was contracted.
Prior to going through the editing process, another member of the WIP family did a more in depth beta read on NWM. Due to Emmett’s inexperience, “he” struggled to understand what was being asked of “him” in regard to rewrites etc., and so I gave up the better part of a weekend to work with “him” on it and helped “him” rewrite or tweak many sections.
I did the same with both the 1st and 2nd round of edits done on NWM.
Why, you may ask, would I go to so much trouble for a new, unknown, and inexperienced writer? Being unknown, it wasn’t like “he” was going to be a huge drawcard to the buying public. The answer is both complicated and simple—I identified with Emmett because of my own traumatic past and I wanted Wayward Ink to be known as an author’s publishing house. One where writers are nurtured and mentored. One where they feel valued and respected and not like they’re part of a sausage factory.
During the beta/editing process I developed what I thought was a friendship with Emmett. It was because of this friendship that I and another friend and WIP author, Taylin Clavelli, had two t-shirts printed with Emmett’s picture on the front. Emmett chose and supplied the image. We made the effort so Emmett would feel “he” was part of the UK GLBT Fiction Meet by having photos of readers and writers alike taken with us wearing the tees. At this point in the story all seemed fine.
On the evening of the 19th May, 2014, I received a frantic PM from Lily G., as she had woken to an ambiguous PM that sounded as if Emmett was suicidal. Richard Leith had left Natalie Leith (Emmett’s supposed adoptive parents) and Emmett was frantic. Between us we sourced phone numbers for every hospital in the Wellington area (this is where Emmett was supposedly living at the time) looking for his husband, Terry, who we’d been told was a doctor in the ER. I rang every single hospital and clinic, giving them a description of Terry as was provided to me at an earlier time by Emmett. None of the hospitals had anyone matching the description or name or any derivative thereof. I looked online for phone numbers for Natalie and I also left PMs for several people I knew Emmett to be friends with and finally at around 3am exhausted and with nothing else I could think of, I left a message on the office phone of Richard Leith.
I have no shame in admitting I was crying like a baby as I was at my wits end trying to locate Terry to alert him to the need to get to Emmett. I hardly slept and was back up at 6am, terrified that when I logged on I’d find FB overrun with posts about Emmett’s suicide.
Everything seemed normal.
Well, except for the tongue lashing I received from Emmett for having left a message on Richard’s phone.
I now began to question Emmett’s story. I still believed “him” to be a young gay man, but wondered if some of his “story” was an exaggeration or an outright lie. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and still took with me to the UK five extra copies of Bollocks which I had every attending contributing author sign. At my own expense, I posted them back to Australia, along with another author’s, with a view of mailing them to him once I returned home from my trip.
While I was overseas a few more things happened which aroused my suspicions such as the sudden failure of Emmett’s and Terry’s marriage which coincided with the beginning of an online flirtation between Emmett and Max as can be verified by Max’s own words and Emmett’s request that I give Max one of the T-shirts.
Once I started to really think about it, the number of catastrophic or dramatic events that plagued Emmett and his family seemed unrealistic. In the space of a few months “he” seemed to have lived a lifetime.
Once again, though, I gave Emmett the benefit of the doubt and thought that there must be a basis of truth to “his” story and that he’d just embellished.
My “friendship” with Emmett began souring upon my return to Australia, and with what has since transpired, I surmise it was because I asked too many questions. I felt Emmett was constantly trying to pick arguments with me and so I slowly withdrew from the friendship. The final straw being when Emmett told me to “suck it up” when I went through a period of grieving at the first anniversary of the suicide of my stepson, who had died the previous year on the night before my birthday. My beloved stepson’s death was one of the reasons I panicked when Lily G told me Emmett was suicidal.
Not long after this, word started filtering through to me that Emmett was badmouthing me and Wayward Ink. I took the high road and said nothing, hoping my actions and attitude would speak louder than his words. Sadly, the negativity escalated rather than abated with my silence and culminated in Emmett telling his new friends lies about me, both as a person and as a publisher, to such an extent K.C. Wells, feeling the need to protect Emmett, posted a highly inflammatory and damaging post about Wayward Ink in a private forum for authors. The incident is a testimony to Emmett’s ability to spin a convincing web of lies because at no time was contact made with me to ask my side of the story or to verify facts.
It has since come to light that this latest deceit is not the first time Natalie has pretended to be someone else and entered into relationships with unsuspecting and trusting men and women, leaving them devastated when her fake persona either leaves or dies.
In a way I feel I should thank Emmett—because of my growing suspicions I called for a meeting with both my accountant and lawyer to discuss ways of ensuring Wayward was dealing with real people when it sent out contracts and paid royalties. Those discussions culminated in my making, as a standard procedure, the request for Tax IDs for the country of residence of the author as well as photo id such as would be found on a passport or drivers licence. I made it WIP policy to not offer contracts to anyone not prepared to supply those pieces of information.
By this point, I was convinced Emmett was really Natalie but I had no proof and no time to go find it. I warned several mutual friends that Emmett was not what “he” at first seemed with varying degrees of success. I was limited in what I could say as I was legally bound and didn’t want to breach confidentiality.
And then another Australian author made contact with me and asked me to meet her for coffee. She revealed suspicions that she and some other people held. Because the departure date for Emmett’s supposed emigration to the United States was fast approaching, these people were worried Max would be hurt when complications would prevent Emmett going. Especially as they had deduced there was no Emmett in the first place.
I nearly cried with relief. Other people had come to the same conclusions I had. Finally confirmation I wasn’t crazy or paranoid!
I gave her what information I could—things Emmett told me as a “friend”, and I admit, I questioned myself with every sentence. Maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of the writers who trust me with their information and their work is of paramount importance to me.
Once they knew they were on the right track, they did further investigation and put the final pieces into the jigsaw. That conversation culminated in Emmett’s lies and deceit being unveiled and key people such as Max being presented with irrefutable evidence
And so, in summary, even if Natalie had signed her contract in her legal name I wouldn’t have been able to divulge that—it’s confidential and it’s not a crime to write under a pseudonym, even one of a different gender. Many authors use pseudonyms for a variety of reasons. Though, had I known I probably wouldn’t have offered her a contract as I would have been aware she had already fabricated an entire false existence to a dear friend of mine.
So, in closing, I had my suspicions, and within the bounds of confidentiality, I did try to warn several people either directly or through third parties. I didn’t have concrete proof that Emmett S. Skipper was really Natalie Leith until this group of concerned members of the MM community banded together to uncover the truth. I, for one, feel extremely grateful to them for their tenacity and their commitment to the GLBT community. They have risked backlash as the messengers of such unwelcome news, but they held firm to their belief that all the victims of Natalie Leith’s lies deserved to know the truth.