If you like your heroes strong, creative and smart, I don't think you can get any better than Leonardo da Vinci. Which is why he gets top billing in my November release, Dating da Vinci.
I first started studying the real da Vinci in 2002 when I read a series of Genius books - How to Think Like A Genius followed by How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. Honestly, the Mona Lisa and Last Supper paintings were about all I knew about the guy up until then. So to discover that he was also a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, astronomer and even event planner for god's sake, was a thrill. There seemed to be nothing the guy wasn't interested in. He carried around a notebook everywhere he went - much like writers do. (I have a copy; it's amazing.) He noted how people walked, how birds flew in the air. And, yeah, he even carved up cadavers when the nice docs would supply him some. Remember, he lived in the 15th century - and his curiousity made him one of great leaders of the Renaissance. (There was that guy Shakespeare, you know.) Even though the Church kept da Vinci in robes and oatmeal, he was skeptical and wanted proof. Yet he was also born tremendously gifted.
As a chick, I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that Leonardo was avid about fitness, was a vegetarian and was a skilled equestrian. Supposedely he was so strong he once stopped a galloping horse with one tug on the rope. Nice. So I made my modern da Vinci unabashedly hetero, a 25-year-old thinking hunk who makes all the girls swoon and sends my widow on a wonderful renaissance (awakening) of her own.
What do you like to see in your heroes? Whether you are reading them or writing them? Any real-life guys you think fit the bill?