Spotlight & Giveaway: UNDER THE MILKY WAY by Vanessa Barneveld

Posted August 13th, 2021 by in Blog, Spotlight / 28 comments

Today it is my pleasure to Welcome author Vanessa Barneveld to HJ!

Hi Vanessa and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, Under the Milky Way!

Hi! Thank you for having me at Harlequin Junkie. I’m thrilled to be here!

Please summarize the book a la Twitter style for the readers here:

It’s Veronica Mars meets the X-Files when a Colorado teen tries to get to the bottom of spooky, unexplained lights in the sky. #UhOhUFO #paranormalYA

Please share the opening lines of this book:

The feeble lights of Mitch Klaxon’s Toyota van illuminated a stretch of Nullarbor highway that was more red dust than asphalt. They’d not passed a single dwelling since sunset, and the next township was at least sixty kilometers away. Mitch didn’t scare easily. At the Perth gig, even as he dodged beer cans—some empty, some half full—he’d kept on singing. Didn’t miss a single note.


Please share a few Fun facts about this book…

  • Each chapter in Under the Milky Way is named after a song, or track. And almost every track is meaningful to my characters or the story. Being a rabid Duran Duran fan, I made sure a few of their song titles featured in the book.
  • The book was partly inspired by my late mother, who swore she saw UFOs when she was a young girl in Indonesia.
  • My heroine’s best friend, Angie, has a character trait that’s based on a real soap star’s rumoured inability to shed tears from her left eye.


What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?

Cassidy senses new-in-town Hayden isn’t fitting in at school and it’s breaking her heart. Naturally, she does her best to make him feel welcome. She even sets him up with a job at her father’s law firm. It doesn’t hurt that that he’s the most gorgeous being in Colorado, and possibly the universe.

When Hayden sees Cassidy on his first day at Dawson High, he can’t believe his luck. He’s a stranger in a strange land, and Cassidy’s resemblance to an old friend gives him some comfort. Problem is he’s under strict instructions not to get too involved with people. But the more he’s told to stay away, the more he wants to be part of Cassidy’s world.

Using just 5 words, how would you describe Hero and Heroine’s love affair?

Fated. Forbidden. Sweet. Intense. Playful.

The First Kiss…

I don’t want to spoil things too much. But I will say that, for Cassidy and Hayden, first aid quickly turns into this first kiss…

He silences my lips with that same finger. Involuntarily, my eyes close as a dizzy feeling swirls over me. My body leans towards his, drawn by some invisible force. His warm lips hone in on mine, mold to mine. Our tongues meet for a split second and fireworks go off inside my brain. Better than anything I’d ever seen on the Fourth of July.

My hand, free of pain, reaches around his back. His muscles ripple under my touch. The slow, languid way Hayden’s rubbing my shoulder is sending me into a state of yogic bliss.

After a while, the crackling explosions turn to the sound of a phone ringing in the distance. Oh, God. That’s right. We’re in an office. My dad’s office.

Reluctantly, I take a few steps back. Aunt Carole or Dad could come in any minute and catch us.
“Wow, uh…” Yeah, that’s about all I can say out loud. I want to add, “Can we do that again? Now?”


Without revealing too much, what is your favorite scene in the book?

It’s so hard to pick a favorite! I loved writing a scene in which Hayden takes control of a light aircraft. To get the technical aspects down pat, I consulted with Ellen Lindseth, a wonderful author of mine who also happens to be a pilot.

Even with a headset on, the single-propeller engine roars loudly in my ears. My whole body tightens as we hurtle forward, the markings on the asphalt runway turning from sharp white lines to blurred streaks the faster we go. Gradually, the plane lifts and the Earth seems to fall away. Hayden continues talking to the control tower, his gaze shifting from the instrument panel to the windows and back again continuously.

I keep my hands jammed under my thighs. No way in hell do I want to accidentally bump a switch and somehow send us into a tailspin. Hayden banks right, giving me an actual bird’s-eye view of Dawson. The plane edges higher at a steady rate. Already, at this altitude, the fields resemble a patchwork quilt in fifty shades of autumn. The lanes of the I-15 are a dark gray crack in the landscape.

As he levels the plane again, I catch a glimpse of pure joy beneath those green sunglass lenses.
“You belong in the skies, don’t you?”

“It’s what I was born to do. Contrary to what my parents say.” Hayden throws me a bittersweet smile.


If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would be absolutely crucial to include?

Hands down, it would have to be a UFO sighting that leaves my heroine breathless.

By the time I roll video, the lightning is much more intense. I wind down the window, waiting for the first crack of thunder.

But there’s no thunder. Not even a chirp of a cricket or a hoot from an all-seeing owl.

The air feels thick. Getting out of the car is a laborious task, like I’m wearing shoes of lead. I cling to the door and look around, unable to take another step. The woods lining the road light up with every streak of lightning. The hackles of my neck have hackles. They stand at attention.

A mammoth triangular shape moves just above the tree line, casting a shadow over the woods and blocking out the storm clouds above. It stalks silently. Slowly. Ominously.


Readers should read this book …

…for escapist fun, romance, and intrigue. If they’ve ever looked at the stars and wondered what — or rather who — may be looking back at them on Earth. Who knows? Maybe Han Solo or Mandalorian types really are out there and ready to rock our worlds.


What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned?

I’m gleefully plotting a follow-up to UNDER THE MILKY WAY. It may or may not involve a parallel universe. I can say Cassidy and Hayden continue their romance, albeit with a different set of obstacles.


Thanks for blogging at HJ!


Giveaway: I’m giving away a signed paperback copy of UNDER THE MILKY WAY along with a pocket-sized UFO Spotter’s Notebook designed by yours truly! Enter my Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win.


To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: Thank you for visiting me today! I’d love to know — who’s your favorite movie or TV alien character?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

**Rafflecopter Hosted by the Author. 


Hayden catches me waving. There’s a mix of curiosity and warmth in his eyes that makes my insides wobble. The atmosphere around us seems to throb, like it does when summer storms approach. Except it’s fall.

“Do you know someone in there?” he asks, face softening.

A lump of emotion in my throat stops me from answering. I can only nod.

“I’m sorry.” He starts to reach for me, but then thinks better of it, folding his arms tightly across his broad chest. I’m glad he didn’t hug me or anything. I would’ve totally lost it.

“It’s fine.” A blatant lie. He tilts his head like he knows it, too.

His smile is a reassuring one. “I bet your mom will be out of there in no time.”

“I hope so—” My eyebrows knit together. “Wait, how did you know I was talking about my mother?”

Hayden’s leg collapses for a second. His entire face turns an even deeper shade of burgundy this time. Plum, even. “Sorry. When you said ‘she,’ I…I just assumed.”

I peer at him closely. Does he have a sixth sense? I cast my mind back to our morning biology class, a lifetime ago, where he seemed to react to what I was thinking. Then there was the “last resort” comment, which echoed my thoughts about Eden exactly.

Maybe we’re in tune somehow.

It also could be my imagination running away with me.

Wouldn’t be the first time.

But am I also imagining the electric current pulsing in the air?

I shake my head. Of course I’m imagining it. I’m letting Angie’s melodramatic influence get to me. She believes in romanticisms like sparks flying and chemistry bubbling between two people. The only electricity here is coming from the power lines running parallel to the road.

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” I say, keeping my fingers crossed that Hayden really isn’t a mind reader. “But don’t spread it around.”

He nods solemnly. “I won’t tell anyone. You can trust me.”

My stomach churns as I look at Eden. Once again, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s the wrong place for Mom.

“I take it visiting hours are over?”

Tossing my head, I say, “They don’t have visiting hours, period. I’m surprised I got in today at all.”

“That’s weird.” He stares at me for a long while. “You’ll get back in there.”

“Oh, I intend to.” Sighing, I say, “I’d better head home, though. There’s not a lot I can do about it now.”

Short of a court order. Or maybe a SWAT operation.

“Right.” He snaps his fingers. “I’ll get out of your way.”

“Thanks. And, uh, you’d better follow me.” I hide a grin.

“Can’t have you driving aimlessly. You might end up in Canada.”

He laughs, sheepish. “It’s okay. I’ll figure it out. Besides, I need to stop for gas. I don’t want to hold you up.”

We lean on our respective car doors and stare at each other, just ten feet apart. It doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.

Then I remember how it doesn’t seem like he’s gelled with anyone at school yet. He must be dying for company. “Hey, uh, you should come to the lake party tonight,” I
say. “Hang out for a bit.”


His doubtful expression drills a tiny hole in my heart, but I push that aside. “We don’t have to go together together. I mean, it’s a traditional senior class thing and you’re new in town and people are curious about you.”

Hayden recoils. I’m not sure if that’s because he finds my rambling distasteful or if he’s uncomfortable about being thought of as a curiosity. “Uh…”

“Look, no pressure. It’ll just be kids standing around a bonfire and seeing who can burp the loudest and longest. And that’s just the cheerleaders.”

A deep, genuine laugh erupts from Hayden, making me feel like a comedienne.

“I’ll think about it. But just to let you know, I’m physically incapable of burping, so I’d sit that contest out.”

Rolling my eyes, I say, “Sure, Hayden. But one day you’re gonna have to prove you’re human like the rest of us.”

Excerpts. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Book Info:

Nothing ever happens in Dawson, Colorado.

Until high school senior Cassidy Roekiem’s mom checks into a “wellness center,” but nothing is wrong with her.

Then people start seeing lights in the sky and missing chunks of time, but the town insists nothing is going on.

And now Hayden, the new boy at school who keeps to himself and is more than a little mysterious, starts to notice her like it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Suddenly, “nothing” is starting to feel a whole lot like something. And everything leads back to Hayden. The boy she’s starting to fall for. The boy with too many dark secrets for his kind heart. The boy she’s pretty sure isn’t human…
Book Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Goodreads |

Meet the Author:

Vanessa lives in a 19th-century house in inner-city Sydney, Australia, with a 21st-century husband, two eccentric cats and one ghost—all of whom provide inspiration for her spirited novels. In addition to writing, she’s part of a crack team that produces closed captions for deaf TV viewers and audio descriptions for the blind. And, yes, that means she gets to watch TV all. day. long.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | | Instagram |

28 Responses to “Spotlight & Giveaway: UNDER THE MILKY WAY by Vanessa Barneveld”

  1. EC

    Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.

    Are Lunars aliens? If they are, then I’m changing my answer to Sailor Moon.

  2. Glenda M

    I have to go with Mork from Mork and Mindy. We’ve been streaming a lot of Robin Williams movies lately

  3. Terrill R.

    I was in love with the show Roswell back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. The high school alien/human romances simply sucked me in. I was in my 20’s at the time, so it might be a different story now. Anyway, my favorite alien in that show was Michael played by Brendan Fehr and my favorite human was Alex played by Colin Hanks (Tom’s son.)

  4. Vanessa Barneveld

    Thank you to everyone who stopped by to comment! I’m glad to see a few of you loved Mork from Ork! He was my favourite alien. 🙂

    The randomly selected Rafflecopter giveaway winner is Teresa W! Congrats, Teresa! I’ve contacted you via email.

    Thank you, Harlequin Junkie, for hosting me!

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