When Game of Thrones began back in 2011, the show was startling faithful to the source material from the first novel. At the time, author George R.R. Martin told fans it wouldn't stay that way. Like the famed Butterfly Effect, every small change would beget bigger changes until the books and TV shows completely diverged. But some fans still hold out hope that book characters long absent from the screen might still have cameos in the final season. That's how you get fans who are still hopeful that somehow Lady Stoneheart might be in Game Of Thrones Season 8.
It's not happening. Lady Stoneheart's window of opportunity to be on the show opened with Season 3 Episode 10, directly after the Red Wedding, and closed with Season 4 Episode 10, when she didn't surface as part of the episode "The Children." The nails hit the coffin when Alex Graves, who directed the Season 4 finale basically laughed at the notion to Entertainment Weekly.
...to bring back Michelle Fairley, one of the greatest actresses around, to be a zombie for a little while — and just kill people?
By the end of Season 4, the differences between books and show were racking up. Sansa revealed herself and backed Littlefinger's story instead of remaining Alayne Stone. Brienne found Arya and the Hound, instead of wandering aimlessly. Mance Ryder didn't have the Horn of Winter. But when the show basically insisted Lady Stoneheart was never going to show up, it was akin to the breaking of the fellowship.
Martin had written an episode every year for the show. But after Season 4, he never wrote for it again. He's always been extremely pragmatic about the changes on screen: "The Books are The Books, The Show is The Show." But fans sensed he was sorry the series refused to include Stoneheart. Last year, he admitted he had argued with the showrunners to include her.
Martin was not able to get Stoneheart on screen. But there is one place he can make her a major character, and no one will argue with him: The Books!
After Catelyn’s resurrection, it was Lady Stoneheart who became a vengeful and merciless killer. In the sixth book, I still continue to write her. She is an important part of the entire book.
One might argue that the show had Sansa and Arya take over the role of their undead mother. With Sansa never marrying Bolton, it's hard to imagine the books would ever make her as hard as she is in Season 6 and 7. As for Arya, though she does become a Faceless Man in the books as well as the show, I would not be surprised if the "Second Red Wedding" is Stoneheart's doing on the page.
As for when we'll ever get to read The Winds of Winter, Martin admits his attention is divided.
I work every day, like jumping between six different projects. Of course, the most important, most difficult, most ambitious and [the one that’s taking the] longest time is The Winds of Winter.
Those other five projects most likely include things like the Targaryen history Fire and Blood, the first volume will be coming later this year. There's also the new Wild Cards volume Low Chicago, Martin edits all the volumes of the long-running series. There's possibly consulting indirectly on the Nightflyers show for Syfy; there's almost certainly consulting directly with HBO on the five spin-offs for Game of Thrones that are in the works. On top of all that, there's working with the Jean Cocteau Cinema, which he owns, to bring films to his hometown of Santa Fe.
The man's got a lot on his plate. Let's hope The Winds of Winter stops being one of those things soon. Game of Thrones, meanwhile, will conclude with Season 8 whenever it decides to get around to it in 2019.